Geschätzte Lesezeit: 8 Minuten

During our trip to The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort it became clear that the topic of sustainability is playing an increasingly important role. This prompted FrontRowSociety editor Andreas Conrad to interview Amila Handunwala, General Manager of W Maldives.

Exclusive Interview with GM Amila Handunwala, W Malediven

Einzigartige Erlebnisse machen einen Urlaub perfekt
Unique experiences make a holiday perfect / © Editorial Office

Andreas Conrad: Speaking of your guests, generally speaking people staying in exclusive hotels, do you have the feeling that they look for sustainable arrivals to their destination?

Amila Handunwala: As of late, I have indeed seen a trend for guests who are staying in hotel like W Maldives to have increasingly showing interests in sustainable practices or initiatives that the hotel has implemented. With growing awareness of environmental issues, many travelers are seeking ways to minimize their carbon footprint and make responsible choices. This can include supporting hotels and resorts that have implemented sustainable practices, like carbon offset programs or partnerships with eco-friendly vendors. Sustainability initiatives are becoming an important aspect of the overall travel experience for many discerning travelers.

Andreas Conrad: So would you agree that sustainable traveling starts with the actual travel itself or at the hotel?

General Manager Amila Handunwala, W Maldives
General Manager Amila Handunwala, W Maldives / © Foto: W Maldives

Amila Handunwala: I would agree that sustainable traveling starts both with the actual travel itself and at the hotel or destination. Sustainable travel encompasses a holistic approach to minimizing environmental impact throughout the entire journey. This includes choosing eco-friendly transportation options, energy and water savings at hotels, supporting local communities, and practicing responsible tourism activities. Hotels and resorts play a crucial role in promoting sustainable travel by implementing eco-friendly practices, offering green amenities, and educating guests about sustainable behaviors. However, travelers also have a responsibility to make sustainable choices throughout their journey. One example that I have witnessed myself is that I have met with guests who actually brought a bio-degradable bags to carry their trash during their travels back to their home countries so as not to add more trash in their holiday destination—which I think it’s quite fantastic!

Andreas Conrad: In common sense most people connect luxury with wastefulness, of course we know and agree that’s not always the case. So how would you reconcile luxury and sustainability?

Amila Handunwala: I believe that luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive; they can coexist harmoniously to create a unique and responsible travel experience. Reconciling luxury and sustainability involves integrating eco-friendly practices into the luxurious amenities and services offered by hotels and resorts. This can include using locally sourced and organic materials, implementing energy-efficient technologies, reducing waste through recycling and composting programs, and supporting local communities and conservation efforts. Luxury travelers can enjoy premium services and amenities while also making environmentally responsible choices that contribute to a more sustainable and ethical travel industry.

... oder doch einmal schauen, was am Pool des Resorts los ist
The pool of the 5-star resort is located near the beach / © Editorial Office

Andreas Conrad: Speaking of those refinements and ideas, does your resort have for example a two-year plan to operate more eco- friendly or sustainable? If so, are you comfortable sharing some with us?

Amila Handunwala: Yes, indeed we have some of sustainability initiatives that are both already implemented and in the pipeline. One of the initiatives is the elimination of single-use plastic water bottles and the elimination of single-use plastic amenities. For some years now, we have installed our own water bottling plant and offer bathroom amenities like soaps, shampoos and lotions in bigger containers so as to reduce the use of plastics. Additionally, our signature FISH restaurant have also adopted the concept of Ocean-To-Table, where we work with local fishermen to source line-caught fish for our ingredients. Moreover, we have a dedicated cocktail menu at SIP, where we up-cycle the ingredients from our restaurants to make sure we are reducing the amount of food waste. For the other initiative we have in the pipeline is that we are set to install a bio-gas plant that will recycle any food waste we have and turn them into organic fertilizer and gas that will be able to support the needs of our restaurants and bars. This plant will help us to produce nutrient-rich water for our planned fruit and herbs plantations—which we plan to be self-sufficient for certain fruit and vegetable items by end of 2025—and methane gas that will feed the consumption of our restaurants. In addition to that, we are also implementing the elimination of single-use plastic in the heart of the house operations, zero-waste Sweet Spots for our guests providing them with delicious snacks and juices, as well as application of solar panels to generate power for the resort. We are committed to continuously improving our sustainability practices and engaging our guests and staff in our efforts to create a more sustainable and responsible resort environment.

Burger, Pasta und Fischgerichte warten auf hungrige Gäste und wer sein Frühstück einmal etwas anderes zu sich nehmen möchte, ordert einen Tag vorher ein Floating Breakfast in die Villa
Burgers, pasta and fish dishes await hungry guests and those who want to have a different kind of breakfast can order a floating breakfast at the villa / © Editorial Office

Andreas Conrad: In order to reach your goal, to what extent do you involve the local population in your sustainability strategies and is there government support for sustainability programs?

Amila Handunwala: We actively involve the local population in our sustainability strategies through partnerships with local communities and conservation organizations—one of the simplest examples would be working closely with local fishermen to source our seafood. We believe that sustainable tourism is closely linked to the well-being and prosperity of local communities. By supporting local businesses, promoting cultural heritage, and providing and supporting education in sustainable practices to the young local communities, we aim to create a positive impact on the local economy and environment.

Wenn abends die Sonne über Fedsu-Island im Meer versinkt ...
When the sun sinks into the sea over Fedsu Island in the evening … / © Editorial Office

Andreas Conrad: Due to our profession we are at multiple exclusive resorts of the world. Sometimes we have the feeling that the thought of sustainability is only important for European / German speaking guests. Would you agree?

Amila Handunwala: While there may be a perception that sustainability is primarily important for European guests, we believe that the demand for sustainable travel practices is growing globally among all demographics of luxury travelers. Also, we have to keep in mind that sustainable practices have actually been practiced all over the world in many different scales depending on different conditions of that particular part of the world.
Environmental awareness and responsibility are becoming increasingly important factors in travel decision-making across different cultural and geographical contexts. Luxury hotels and resorts worldwide are recognizing the importance of sustainability and are implementing eco-friendly practices to meet the evolving expectations of their guests and to contribute to global conservation efforts.

Andreas Conrad: Speaking of your personal opinion, how do you think traveling and staying at luxurious destinations will change in the future? And where do you see the limits of sustainability in the luxury hospitality industry?

Amila Handunwala: In my personal opinion, traveling and luxurious destinations will continue to evolve towards more sustainable and responsible practices in the future. The luxury hospitality industry will increasingly focus on integrating eco-friendly technologies, promoting local culture and heritage, and supporting conservation and community development initiatives. This is proven to be true with the new trend of the blue-zone tourism, where hospitality practitioners are offering experiences and lifestyle of the world’s blue zones through special culinary offerings and wellness programs that reflects the local culture of these blue zones. However, there are limits to sustainability in the luxury hospitality industry, such as the challenge of balancing environmental responsibility with the expectations of luxury travelers for premium services and amenities. Striking the right balance between luxury and sustainability will be a key challenge for the industry moving forward.

Und wenn es mal zu heiß ist: unter Palmen und mit den Füßen im Wasser lässt es sich dann doch aushalten
And if it’s too hot: it’s still bearable under palm trees and with your feet in the water / © Editorial Office

Andreas Conrad: There are lots of environmentally conscious trends, which ones have you noticed in recent years?

Amila Handunwala: In recent years, several environmentally conscious trends have emerged in the luxury hospitality industry, including the adoption of renewable energy sources, the implementation of energy-efficient technologies, the reduction of single-use plastics and waste, the promotion of local and organic food sourcing, the support of local community and conservation projects, and the development of eco-friendly architecture and design. These trends reflect a growing commitment within the industry to minimize environmental impact and to contribute to a more sustainable and responsible global tourism sector.

Am Abend öffnet die Sunsst-Bar „Sip“ ihre Türen und anschließend geht es zum Open Air Dinner ins „Fish“
In the evening, the Sunset Bar „Sip“ opens its doors and then it’s off to an open-air dinner at „Fish“ / © Editorial Office 

Andreas Conrad: Lastly, we are curious! There’s a current boom of luxurious hospitality facilities all over the world. Everybody wants to go higher, further, faster, chasing the sky. What does a luxury resort or hotel need to survive the tough competition?

Amila Handunwala: To survive the tough competition in the booming luxury hospitality market, we need to differentiate ourselves by offering unique and personalized experiences that resonate with our particular target. This can include providing exceptional customer service, offering exclusive amenities and experiences, incorporating local culture and heritage into the guest experience, implementing innovative eco-friendly practices, and engaging guests in sustainability initiatives and activities. By focusing on these key elements, a luxury resort can create a distinctive and compelling brand identity that sets it apart from competitors and will naturally attract the like-minded travelers.

Einfach einmal im Schatten Platz nehmen und sich vom Nichtstun treiben lassen
Simply take a seat in the shade and let yourself drift away from doing nothing / © Editorial Office 

Andreas Conrad: Finally, we would like to know what unique selling point your resort has in terms of environmentally friendly tourism?

Amila Handunwala: W Maldives’ unique selling point in terms of the environment is our commitment to creating an authentic yet sustainable experience that integrates eco-friendly practices into every aspect of the guest journey. As we are located on a natural island, our beautiful and award-winning house reef is literally surrounding us where guests can easily and directly access from their villas without the need of a motorboat ride. In addition to that, we always strive to minimize our environmental footprint through implementation of renewable energy and water conservation while at the same time offering amenities and experiences that reflect the natural beauty of Maldives.

Here you can find our articles about our press trip: (in German)

Das 5 Sterne W Malediven im Nord Ari Atoll

Chefs on Fire im 5 Sterne W Malediven


Andreas Conrad, Herausgeber des Magazins FrontRowSociety ist Advokat von Prevented Ocean PlasticFrontRowSociety editor Andreas Conrad conducted the interview with the General Manager Amila Handunwala, W Maldives, in April 2024. These are the original, unedited answers.

Here you can find the interview in German

W Malediven
09110 Fesdu Island

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