Interview with Sarah Moosa, Managing Director, Crown & Champa Resorts and Crown Company, Maldives

Interview with Sarah Moosa, Managing Director, Crown & Champa Resorts and Crown Company, Maldives


What factors are behind the Maldives’ influx of tourist arrivals in 2023 and what opportunities and challenges has it presented to local operators?

The Maldives has successfully rebounded post-pandemic, consistently meeting arrival targets. Our rapid adaptation to pandemic requirements, aided by the one-island, one-resort policy ensured efficient implementation of preventative measures to combat outbreaks. As global tourism dynamics shift, we have adjusted to meet new demands such as wellness and remote work. During the pandemic, we catered to diverse guest needs across resorts, guest houses, and local island tourism, providing ample opportunities for arrivals from various markets.

Infrastructure challenges in the area have to be addressed through completion of airport expansions, as it is crucial to improving accessibility and enhancing guest experiences. The primary issue with accessibility has largely been resolved with additional airports in the pipeline and the prioritizing of international arrivals. Considering the Maldives is on the front line of the battle against climate change, we are integrating mitigation measures into future development to prepare for the future.

Crown and Champa Resorts employs over 3000 people and currently operates ten resorts, including the new five-star Jawakara Island which opened in October this year. Situated in Lhaviyani Atoll, Jawakara offers a five-star guest experience across the islands of Mabin and Dheru, connected to each other by a 650-meter bridge above the reef, providing guests with excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. The two-island resort, one destination concept offers multigenerational travellers various dimensions of the Maldivian hospitality experience.

Hospitality and service are paramount at our properties. We strive to deliver unforgettable experiences which consequently converts to a high number of repeat customers. Many guests have expressed that returning feels like coming home, which is thanks to our staff, environment, and product. This personalized touch sets CCR properties apart. Regarding new trends for this year, we’ve noticed an increase in family travelers, prompting us to adapt the property accordingly. At Jawakara, we’ve established one of the country’s top kids’ clubs, complete with proper childcare certifications as per international standards. Identifying the current global trends and catering to different markets with critical amenities is essential.


Can you give our readers an overview of CCR’s current resorts and services, as well as recent milestones in your development?

Crown and Champa Resorts are a collection of properties; 10 resorts and 1 city hotel that is the epitome of Maldivian hospitality. The management company was established in the year 2000 by Maldivian and foreign partners with the shared vision to create authentic experiences by combining our joint resources industry knowledge to offer our guests an invaluable experience.

It’s been 24 years since our inception, and we’ve made significant strides in establishing robust systems and processes. The owners take pride in our team’s efficient operations, and our current focus is on continuous improvement and adapting to new market trends. For example, we are currently renovating Veligandu Island Resort and upgrading employee accommodation. Sustainability is a key consideration in our renovation projects, incorporating eco-friendly materials wherever possible. CCR Resort collection offers guests multiple options to choose from affordable, boutique, adults only or luxury experiences.


How would you assess the level of education in the Maldives’ tourism sector, and how is CCR training local workers to become future industry leaders?

Human capital is undoubtedly the cornerstone of hospitality. Reflecting on the pioneers’ stories we realise that it was their hospitality that set the benchmark and brought us to where we are today, as initially we did not have access to resources or formal training. Maldivian hospitality is paramount and nurturing local talent has been a key philosophy for CCR. We initiated a scholarship program in the early 2000s, sending employees abroad to study various fields related to hospitality. Many of these employees have returned and continue to contribute to our resorts. Local institutions provide a strong foundation, while resorts offer tailored training and development programs. Recognizing the importance of education, our owners prioritize continuous development. For instance, sending our key managers for skill enrichment at Cornell GM’s program in the US. This investment in management not only enhances leadership skills but also fosters a valuable network and allows managers to share knowledge within their teams.


What is being done to digitize the Maldives’ tourism sector and what technologies is CCR using in its operations?

The Maldives is embracing digital technology and integrating it into various facets of life and business, particularly tourism. At CCR, our operations are fully digitalized, offering online systems that streamline processes. We have introduced mobile apps to enhance guest experiences, allowing them to manage their entire stay, from spa appointments to contacting guest service executives, all through their dedicated resort app. This pre-arrival organization enhances guest satisfaction. We also utilize technology such as energy management systems and digital marketing tools to reach guests globally, ensuring innovation leads all aspects of our operations.


How is CCR positioned to take advantage of the rise in demand for ecotourism while protecting the environment?

Preserving the environment has been integral to CCR’s strategy since its inception, recognizing the value of pristine beaches and clear waters as our core product. We have implemented numerous sustainable initiatives over the years, including developing the Maldives’ first 100% solar-powered resort, initiated by one of our owners. Subsequently, we have integrated solar power into many of our properties, retrofitting existing resorts and incorporating solar options into new projects, such as the ongoing refurbishment of Veligandu Resort.

This commitment to sustainability is immediate and ongoing. At the Kudadoo Maldives ultra-luxury property, daily operations are powered entirely by solar energy. We’ve implemented various eco-friendly measures across our properties, including reducing single-use plastics, waste segregation, and the use of organic and biodegradable products.

Each resort features local gardens to provide fresh herbs and vegetables, minimizing the need for imports. For example, Kuredu’s island resort is a larger island and supplies vegetables and fresh produce to neighboring resorts within the group. Similarly, smaller resorts like Komandoo source fresh fish directly from local fishermen, supporting the local economy. All resorts engage in marine conservation efforts, with Vilamendhoo Island Resort offering eco-conscious diving and snorkeling experiences in South Ari Atoll’s rich marine ecosystem, which is famous for its manta rays and whale sharks. We prioritize the use of environmentally friendly materials in construction, such as sustainably farmed wood, while adopting a circular approach by recycling hot water for gardening.


What is CCR and the tourism industry doing to attract visitors from large markets such as the USA and what opportunities are there for foreign investors in the local tourism industry? 

The Maldives is experiencing a welcome increase in arrivals from then US, largely thanks to US-based marketing representatives. This growth can be attributed to the variety of options available to them, including the presence of established US brands in the Maldives. CCR is actively working with partners in the USA to attract visitors as our collection of resorts offers guests multiple options to choose from affordable, boutique, adults only or luxury experiences.

The Maldives has emerged as a prime investment destination, as evidenced by the influx of international hospitality chains establishing resorts here, strengthening the tourism industry while also supporting associated industries where many investment opportunities lie.


As the leader of one of the most esteemed resort chains in the Maldives, what are your priorities, and how does CCR feature in the future of the local tourism industry?

Crown and Champa resorts are comprised of four shareholders, Crown Company, Champa Brothers, Kasa Holdings, and Kuredu Holdings whom have all put their collective resources and expertise into guiding CCR to where it is today. We are committed to building upon their legacy, focusing on creating unforgettable experiences while nurturing local talent. Our vision aligns with global trends, integrating the latest technologies and prioritizing sustainability. We strive to elevate our offerings and embrace emerging trends, including greater participation of women in the workforce. Our goal is to see the Maldivian tourism industry thrive as a climate-resilient destination.

What is your final message to the readers of USA TODAY?

I encourage people to visit the Maldives and immerse themselves in our culture and hospitality firsthand. We eagerly anticipate welcoming more visitors and investors to take advantage of the abundant opportunities here.