Annual Report 2015/16 Annual Report 2015/16

365 DAYS

Long-haul travel is on trend. Last year alone, the figures rose by 8 per cent. Countries that can promise sunshine all year inevitably appeal to holidaymakers, but they also offer a high return on capital. Investments in group-owned hotels and clubs have focused on the Caribbean and Asia. Robinson and Riu, for example, will be opening new facilities in the Maldives in 2017 and 2018. A visit to existing and future Robinson islands illustrates the challenges facing expansion that are posed by local infrastructure, but also the sustainable philosophy that has already been implemented in construction. Besides, this growth strategy has been attracting the attention of new target groups – 365 days a year.

A climate for growth

A consistently warm climate provides irresistible holiday landscapes. It also means that hotels can operate commercially all year round. Asia and the Indian Ocean, in particular, offer huge potential. Fascinating cultures in different countries blend with the quality and service of TUI’s hotel brands and formats to create new holiday idylls.

121 693 rooms in own-brand hotels in the Maldives in 2016 and 2018

»Good, stable weather is only one ingredient in the recipe for success that makes a holiday resort attractive. With TUI’s proven hotel brands, we want to offer our customers the same variety and high standards in new destinations too.«

Thomas Pietzka,
Managing Director TUI Hotels & Resorts
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Thomas Pietzka
Managing Director TUI Hotels & Resorts

Why do destinations with a warm year-round climate lend themselves to building new hotels?

A consistently warm climate not only creates destinations with irresistible holiday landscapes. Hotels can also operate all year, given that there is so little seasonal fluctuation. That allows us to manage our resorts very commercially while profiting from the high growth rates for tourism in the region.

You are expanding your portfolio in the Maldives with Riu and Robinson. Which other hotel brands can we expect to see moving into Asia and the Indian Ocean?

Brand hotels are still under-represented in many Asian countries. Consequently we have identified great potential for expanding our four core hotel brands Riu, Robinson, TUI Blue and TUI Magic Life and also the three concepts TUI Sensimar, TUI Family Life and TUI Sensatori. Thanks to our highly versatile portfolio and the variety of market alignment, that means we can always draw on the right hotel format for these very different destinations. Moreover, with many years of experience in running leisure hotels, we can bring our high standards of quality, service and security into these new holiday regions.

Which countries, apart from the Maldives, are on your “shopping list”?

In Asia and the Indian Ocean we have identified Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Philippines and growth destinations, but the Caribbean remains attractive for hotel brands. Jamaica, Cuba, Costa Rica and Barbados hold out great promise as holiday destinations. Besides, we are still building our range in established short- and medium-haul destinations. The aim, in the light of the geopolitical challenges, is to have a portfolio presence in as many different countries as possible that appeal to tourists. The hotel business is like many others in that it’s important to have the right mix.

Visitors from the Robinson Club Maldives Huvadhu receive a warm welcome from their neighbours on Vaadhoo.
Neighbourly support: Robinson has been helping a local school to equip its classrooms.
Over 100 and still proud of her traditional hand-sewn costume: the oldest resident on Vaadhoo.
Growing fruit and vegetables is still manual work in the Maldives.
Robinson Club director Heinz Trautmann and his staff take an interest in the aubergine crop.
Juicy fresh: the Robinson Club can meet its entire demand for water melons from the island next door.
Local farmers are also expanding their portfolio – with a wider variety of vegetables for Club holidaymakers.
The world’s hottest chili grows in the Maldives.
Freshly served: the Robinson Club kitchen uses local produce to create new culinary experiences.

Local resources

Trading with neighbours creates jobs: freshly caught fish and produce from local fruit and vegetable growers not only tickle your taste buds of TUI customers, but also maintain a flow of orders for the island population. In the resort itself, Robinson Club Maldives Huvadhu has 45 per cent Maldivians on its staff and provides on-site training in hotel skills.

100% of the demand for watermelons, bananas and aubergines is grown on the next island

»What appeals to me most about running a club in the Maldives are the logistical challenges, but also working together with the incredibly hospitable people here.«

Heinz Trautmann,
General Manager Robinson Club Maldives Huvadhu
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Heinz Trautmann
General Manager Robinson Club Maldives Huvadhu

You have worked for 16 different Robinson Clubs. What do you see as the key benefit of year-round operation?

Year-round operation lets you work on a more continuous basis, because we keep our employees on the books, and that makes it easier to retain them. At the same time, we can offer our customers a wider range of holiday months to choose the dates for their trip. Besides, we have high occupancy rates because we are located in the Asia Region. When it’s summer in Europe and fewer European visitors make the trip over here, we welcome the many Asian holidaymakers who have a shorter journey.

What challenges are there to managing a Club on a Maldive island?

What appeals to me most about running a Club in the Maldives are the logistical challenges. Obviously it’s harder to organise technical maintenance on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Or take another example: buying in food. Our guests are accustomed to the range of high-standard food we offer, but to ensure that quality here we can’t get by without container deliveries from overseas. Fresh fish, for example, we can purchase from local fishermen, and some of our fruit and vegetables are grown by famers on the neighbouring island. The local economy profits from this partnership, and we can now meet our entire demand for water melons and aubergines from the region itself. We are also in discussions about additional cultivation projects.

So the demand is creating jobs for local people. Do you employ island inhabitants in the Robinson Club itself?

Of course. That is another of the things I so like about working here. About 45 per cent of our employees on the island are Maldivians, and that means we are also meeting the requirements of the Maldivian government. As there are hardly any qualified hotel staff, we are training our employees in matters of service and housekeeping. But one thing we have never trained people for in the Maldives is their attitude to guests or their willingness to be helpful. Hospitality is simply in the islanders’ blood.

Having different nationals in the team is probably useful when you have an international mix of customers?

It certainly is. We also train our staff to foster an understanding of the different cultures and behaviour patterns of our holidaymakers. But the secret to a well-functioning international Club is catering for different languages. To that end, we employ people in Guest Relations who have particular linguistic skills. So apart from the usual English and German, they can also communicate with our guests in Japanese and Chinese, which is very much appreciated.

Infrastructure upgrade

Robinson Club Maldives Huvadhu in Gaaf Alif Atoll records around 14,000 arrivals and departures a year. Travelling on from the international airport in Malé is all about choosing the right type of vehicle and meeting the logistical challenge. Guests reach the Club by taking propeller planes commonly used on domes­tic flights, followed by a speedboat. But the infrastructure varies widely within this huge island state. For the expansion into Noonu Atoll, planners need to consider smaller seaplanes that only fly by day.

speedboats sea planes propeller planes

»Our guests from Europe usually take a whole day to reach the island paradise. All the more important that we offer them great service and plenty of comfort. In that respect, a huge amount has been achieved in the Maldives in recent years.«

Ali Osman Cakar,
Front Office & Hotel Yield Manager, Robinson Club Maldives Huvadhu
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Ali Osman Cakar
Front Office & Hotel Yield Manager, Robinson Club Maldives

The Maldives are made up of 1,190 scattered islands. Many of them – like the Robinson Clubs – don’t take long to walk around. What challenges does this infrastructure pose for guest transfers?

A bus transfer won’t get us far in the Maldives, unlike other destinations, because this unusual geography obviously requires guests to put a lot more effort into arriving and leaving. To reach the existing Robinson Club Maldives Huvadhu, they continue their journey from the international airport with a domestic flight to a neighbouring island, and then take a speedboat across to us. We are still at the planning stage for the new Club in Noonu Atoll further north. Its nearest domestic airport is further away, so we are contemplating seaplanes as an alternative to the established method.

That sounds quite exciting for your guests …

Yes, the flying experience is pretty unique, but the planes have smaller capacities and can transport 14 passengers rather than up to 50. Besides, seaplane navigation requires visibility, so they can’t fly in all weather conditions or at night. That means that we will work with our partner and subcontractor of many years on providing equally reliable flight connections plus a few speedboats of our own.

Is transport likely to improve in the near future?

A huge amount has already been achieved in the last few years. New resorts have brought new airports and connections. The airport in Malé is also much more comfortable than it used to be. That is important, because our guests from Europe usually take a whole day to reach the island paradise. That is why we retain our own staff at the airport to assist our customers with checking in for onward travel and to accompany them to the lounge, where they can wait in comfort. This service is greatly appreciated by our Robinson guests. And once they arrive at our feel-good Club, they soon forget the long trip.

Sustainable architecture

750 workers are currently transforming the uninhabited island of Orivaru into the second Robinson Club in the Maldives. Energy efficiency is a pivotal element of the design. The innovative heat recovery system and new air conditioning technology will cut not only consumption, which is good for the climate, but also costs. Operational sustainability is also enhanced by high-standard sewage treatment and an in-house unit to turn sea water into drinking water.

35% cost savings thanks to the latest climate technologies

»Our energy-saving measures have been tried and tested in the world’s major cities. But for a region like the Maldives they are very new and relatively rare.«

John Jarmann,
site manager Robinson Club Noonu
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John Jarmann
Site Manager des neuen ROBINSON Club Noonu

Climate change is an important issue for the Maldives, where the islands are barely above sea level. How has that influenced the construction of the new resort?

It’s an issue that affects us in many ways whenever we build a new resort. For this site, energy efficiency is an extremely important factor, partly to protect the environment, and partly from a cost perspective. Any island in the Maldives needs to be self-sufficient. Electricity and drinking water are produced onsite, and waste disposal needs to be managed autonomously as well. During the construction phase, we lay the foundations for sustainable management in the future.

Can you give us an example of sustainable construction?

As we build the bungalows and water villas for the Robinson Club Noonu, we already have energy efficiency in mind. The roofs are insulated to keep the buildings cool inside. Because toom temperatures are moderate as a result, the cost of air conditioning for those rooms is already going to be lower. At the same time, we are investing in efficient centralised air conditioning. Normally rooms in the Maldives are fitted with individual devices, but they consume more power and they have to be replaced more frequently. So in the new Club we are installing a centralised unit that draws on seawater for cooling, and this technology brings in an annual saving of around 35 per cent of our energy costs. In addition to that, we are implementing a heat recovery system, so we can use the waste heat from our power generators to heat water. Then there is our highly efficient pipework, which reduces heat loss from the source – the hot water boiler – to the point of consumption in the guest’s room to just one degree Celsius. Usually you would expect that loss to be five times as high.

Water is another precious asset in the Maldives…

You are right. That is why, once again, we are going to have our own drinking water facility on the new island. It’s the latest in osmosis technology and it enables us to turn seawater into drinking water. Our sparkling water in reusable glass bottles will be produced in our in-house bottling unit. That eliminates the need for 60,000 plastic bottles a year, not to mention the expensive disposal of those bottles. In addition to that, we are installing a sewage treatment unit which is a state-of-the-art self-contained system. The water that leaves the unit is of very high quality. In fact, the readings are so good that it can be discharged into the sea without any reservations. That is another example of the structural and technical measures which help us to make a valuable contribution to climate protection.

Promising markets

The ideal location in the Indian Ocean is also a key to expansion in the Asia Region. About 50 per cent of Robinson guests already come from China, Japan and Korea. Besides, TUI’s new resorts are easily reachable for holiday-seeking ex-pats who work for European companies in Asia and the Middle East. But whether it’s Asians wanting to plan their short leave or Europeans with a yen for far-off lands – the island paradise enchants them all.

50% European 50% guests Asian guests

»Most customers are thrilled as soon as they arrive on a Maldive island, because no one can resist palm trees, white sandy beaches and broad swathes of coral reef. We do everything we can to make that experience all the more unique by providing very special service.«

Björn Thümmel,
Director Finance / Managing Director, Robinson Club Maldives Pvt Ltd.
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Björn Thümmel
Director Finance / Managing Director, ROBINSON Club Maldives

What makes the growth market in Asia and the Indian Ocean so attractive?

For one thing, no doubt, it’s Asian culture. For another, the destinations themselves are the perfect holiday setting. Most customers are deliriously happy as soon as they arrive on a Maldive island, because no one can resist palm trees, white sandy beaches and broad swathes of coral reef. All we have to do is enhance that experience and make it all the more unique by adding the things we can offer.

Is the new Robinson Club aimed entirely at the European market?

No, we will also be targeting new markets that value our German standards. At the existing Robinson Club, we already have a customer mix, with 50 per cent coming from Europe and 50 per cent from Asia, primarily China, Japan and Korea. That ratio functions very well, ensuring high occupancy rates across all seasons. We see further potential among ex-pats, people working for German companies in Asia or also in the Middle East, who have the added advantage of optimum outward travel.

“Contented employees create unique holidays” – HR Director Dr Eller on the new people strategy.
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The purchaser’s challenge: A day with Marina Comas.
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