Soneva – Inspiring a lifetime of rare experiences

Soneva is a creator of luxurious and sustainable resorts. They are a thriving community that works hand-in-hand with the environment to create beautiful experiences, beyond bespoke, where discovery is a way of life. Here, RLI spends time with CEO and Co-Founder Sonu Shivdasani to learn more about the concept behind the brand and why its operating model has been so successful.

The brand’s story began in 1987 when Sonu Shivdasani first traveled to the Maldives with his wife Eva – co-founder of Soneva – and he immediately fell in love with the scenic views and simple way of life.

Together, after considerable time and effort, the couple launched their first resort called Soneva Fushi in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll in 1995, where they redefined tourism in the Maldives and quickly became the country’s premier island destination.

This original site was followed by Soneva Kiri on the island of Koh Kood in Thailand in 2009, the 23 meter luxury yacht, Soneva in Aqua at the end of 2015 in the Maldives and then the opening of Soneva Jani came the following year, which is also in the Maldives in the Noonu Atoll.

“At Soneva, we have always strived to be a pioneer in the hospitality industry, whether through the opening of some of the first spas in Asian resorts, introducing private swimming pools in villas and outdoor bathrooms, or including observatories and cinemas in all our resorts, we always strive to offer the best to our customers,” says Sonu Shivdasani, CEO and co-founder of Soneva.

Soneva Soul Island Spa at Soneva Jani
Medhufaru Island, Manadhoo, Maldives

The company’s latest initiative, Soneva Soul, launched in December last year and this transformative wellness brand combines ancient healing with modern science to reconnect mind, body and soul. It is guided by the principle of “lifestyle evolution, tailoring personalized care plans to help clients reach their full potential and achieve their long-term wellness goals. Soneva Soul offers each client a truly personalized path to health, happiness and fulfillment, meaning no Soneva Soul journey will be the same.

In the coming months, the company has a number of exciting new projects that it will be showcasing, including new one-bedroom beach villas at Soneva Jani as well as new family experiences at the Jani site that are set to launch. in July.

“Soneva Soul will also introduce new specialist wellness treatments such as hyperbaric oxygen therapies and traditional Chinese medicine treatments. Next year we will also be hosting a Wellness Festival – Soul, which will be held over a period of ten days and will feature some of India’s leading practitioners for a series of wellness talks, presentations and offerings. be specialized.

Soneva Kiri, Thailand

On new properties, Sonu explains that the first thing they look at is the location itself and what infrastructure, if any, is in place, or is it somewhere they need to build at start from nothing. Then they look at the experiences they could potentially offer their customers – whether they are enjoying local marine life up close or embracing their Slow Life philosophy and commitment to operating sustainably. Finally, does the location or property have a sense of place and culture? By this means, Sonu embraces its surroundings and local people and integrates them into the overall resort experience.

The company aims to provide customers with what they call “rare” experiences. They have a lot of loyal customers, so it’s also about giving them a reason to come back to resorts year after year.

“Throughout the year, we offer a rich range of activities and experiences to ensure that every stay is unique, whether it’s stargazing through one of the world’s largest telescopes from the Indian Ocean to our observatory, learning to snorkel or snorkel with our marine biologist,” says Shivdasani.

E-commerce and social media are important aspects of Soneva’s overall marketing mix. They maintain a strong social media presence to attract Millennials and Gen Z consumers and they do this by regularly engaging with high profile celebrities, sports stars and influencers around the world, and their Instagram following recently hit 1.1 million.

Soneva Soul Island Spa at Soneva Jani
Medhufaru Island, Manadhoo, Maldives

Additionally, they also maintain a presence on LinkedIn which primarily focuses on delivering our business news and priority projects while reaching out to a younger audience; they are also starting to grow their TikTok engagement.

The website accounts for around half of their bookings and they continue to invest in this area to make the online booking experience for customers easier and smoother. With this in mind, over the next few months they will also be launching a new online retail platform so their customers can experience Soneva at home. Finally, they explore the metaverse to identify if there are any synergies or avenues they can work in.

The theme of sustainability is more relevant than ever, and it’s part of the company’s DNA, and they ensure that in all aspects of the business, they operate in the most sustainable way possible.

“At resorts, for example, we are proud to say that 90% of our solid waste is recycled. We view waste as a valuable resource and have created a sophisticated Waste-to-Wealth program. Since its inception, the program has generated over $2.5 million in value through waste treatment and vegetable production,” says Shivdasanni.

Soneva Fushi, Maldives

As owners and operators of their resorts, Sonu and Eva can focus on and improve their philosophy. They are able to evolve and innovate quickly as the world changes. He believes this is a key driver of the Soneva brand and a visit to a Soneva resort will clearly show how different they are to any other luxury experience that exists in the market where they operate.

“We believe luxury is defined as something rare or uncommon to the consumer and with that in mind, the experience we have created for our customers is as far removed from an urban scenario as possible, letting them indulge to things they rarely get to do in their daily lives.”

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