Interview with Srikanth Devarapalli, Area Director & General Manager, Emerald Collection’s Maldives Resort & Spa

Interview with Srikanth Devarapalli, Area Director & General Manager, Emerald Collection’s Maldives Resort & Spa


Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa was named Unrivaled Luxury Leader of 2023 by The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW), as well as the World’s Leading Water Villa Resort. What can you tell us about the significance of these distinctions, and what is fresh and new at the resort this year that might specifically entice visitors from the US?

In 2023, we experienced significant growth in our business operations. However, for our team, the receipt of these prestigious awards holds profound significance as it serves as a validation of our efforts and instills in us a drive to continually excel. Of note is the Unrivaled Luxury Leader Award, a distinction within the LHW properties, where we achieved the highest guest satisfaction ratings among esteemed peers. Membership of the LHW signifies adherence to exceptional standards and global recognition.

The location of last year’s award ceremony in Italy holds special meaning for us as an Italian-owned company, and we take great pride in this recognition bestowed upon our entire organization. Since our establishment in 2019, our team has remained steadfast and consistent, emphasizing rigorous standards and training while prioritizing the creation of authentic guest experiences, which is evident in our results. The recognition came as a delightful surprise to us.

In addition to the accolades from the LHW, we have consistently been honored by the World Travel Awards (WTA) in the global category since 2020. Personally receiving one of these awards in Dubai last year, alongside my Managing Director, was a particularly memorable moment for us. As our collection of awards grows, we anticipate the need for additional display space in the future, a testament to our ongoing success.

While Emerald may not be a widely recognized global brand, our affiliation with the LHW, a renowned entity worldwide, ensures guests can expect a deluxe, all-inclusive experience unmatched in the Maldives. Our resort sets new benchmarks with offerings such as an extensive wine list featuring over 100 selections included in our all-inclusive package, a feature uncommon in the region.

Despite the US market’s growing presence in the Maldives, we have seen an increase in repeat visitors, particularly from US residents in Dubai and neighboring countries, demonstrating the expanding appeal of our resort. While we maintain high rankings on platforms such as, Expedia, and TripAdvisor, our primary focus remains on our guests. We assure them that their experience with Emerald will exceed their expectations, as we continually strive to deliver more than what they anticipate.


With utmost respect towards the ecosystem in which it thrives, both Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa and Emerald Faarufushi Resort & Spa are a perfect reflection of the Maldives’ luxury tourism industry. In what ways does the Emerald Collection encapsulate the essence of the Maldives, its culture, and its people?

Beginning with infrastructure, traditionally in the Maldives, resorts commonly feature roofs made of coconut thatch. While this material is sustainable, it necessitates replacement every two years, resulting in the frequent cutting down of coconut trees. When constructing Emerald Maldives, we sought a more sustainable alternative. We opted for Alang Alang grass from Indonesia, which boasts a lifespan of six years. As we enter the fifth year of resort operations, it appears that replacement will not be required for the next two years. Sustainability was a top priority throughout the decision-making process.

Furthermore, all hot water systems in our guest villas, staff areas, laundry, and kitchens operate on solar heaters, a feature implemented from the outset. Recently, we initiated our own organic and flower gardens, eliminating the need to purchase flowers externally. Additionally, we have installed a food composting machine on the island to produce our compost. Last year, we upgraded our energy-saving initiatives by installing motion sensors. Previously, our system shut off air conditioning if a guest left the doors open for more than a minute. However, we have now implemented motion-sensitive devices that automatically switch off room lighting and air conditioning when guests are absent.

We take pride in our sustainability efforts on the island. As part of our commitment, we conduct weekly house tours led by our director of engineering, showcasing our generator plants and recycling facilities to guests. On average, around 25-30 guests participate in these tours each week, raising awareness of our sustainable practices.


Mother Nature has provided the Maldives with some of the most beautiful islands, beaches, and coral reefs in the world. However, it took visionary leadership and shrewd investments to develop the world-class luxury tourism industry we know today. How would you personally define luxury? And what standards and values are upheld by your resorts, contributing to the Maldives’ esteemed reputation for luxury? 

The perception of luxury is changing and evolving each year. In the past years, luxury was considered as a product. The concept of luxury is undergoing constant evolution. While previously associated primarily with material possessions, the definition has now shifted. Within the context of destinations like the Maldives, we witness an emergence of luxury defined by sustainability and meticulous attention to detail, rather than mere opulence. Despite resorts constructed entirely from wood and sustainable materials commanding top-tier prices, the emphasis has shifted towards personalized service and the creation of unique experiences for guests.

Year by year, we observe a varied approach to luxury among guests. For establishments like Emerald and other premier resorts in the Maldives, guest preferences have evolved beyond superficial features such as pool size. Instead, they prioritize the consistency of service and the warmth of the hospitality extended by the team.

As part of our commitment to guest satisfaction, I regularly host management cocktail events, during which I inquire about guests’ reasons for choosing Emerald or the Maldives. Repeatedly, they highlight reviews praising the genuine friendliness and authentic experiences provided by the Maldivian people. This genuine care transcends mere business transactions; it is ingrained in the culture and ethos of the Maldives. This trend is further underscored by the increasing number of Maldivians assuming management and leadership positions within the hospitality industry, indicating a promising future in this regard.

Simultaneously, I advocate for the establishment of more hospitality colleges or institutes in the Maldives. This initiative would not only enhance educational opportunities for locals but also contribute to the development of a highly skilled workforce capable of delivering exceptional hospitality experiences.


The Deluxe All-Inclusive Sanctuary, and Oasis, both offer couples and families a full range of activities and emotions. What distinctive features set your resorts apart from other five-star properties in the Maldives?

During the resort’s construction phase, our aim was to provide an inclusive experience for guests of all ages, from infants to elderly couples, ensuring a variety of activities and amenities tailored to diverse preferences. We began by establishing one of the largest kids’ clubs in the Maldives, with the design being approved by the owners’ eight-year-old daughter, who drew upon her experiences at various Maldivian resorts to ensure its appeal to children. This endeavor has proven highly successful, with many families choosing Emerald specifically for the Kids Club.

Furthermore, we boast one of the largest selections of two-bedroom family beach villas. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed a significant rise in family travel to the Maldives, with former honeymooners returning with their children in tow. Consequently, the demand for family-oriented accommodations, such as our two-bedroom villas, has surged. To meet this demand, we expanded our inventory last year by adding 10 villas.

Simultaneously, our Emerald Water Villas offer luxurious accommodation tailored for couples, featuring stunning bathrooms and expansive spaces conducive to privacy and romance. Amid the vast expanse of the island, we ensure a serene atmosphere for couples while also providing facilities to accommodate families. Additionally, our resort offers padel courts, tennis courts, and a plethora of activities to keep all guests entertained and engaged.


The Maldives witnessed an unprecedented 12% surge in tourist arrivals in 2023, surpassing 1.88 million visitors, a historic record for the atoll nation in comparison to 2022. Considering the growth in arrivals and the implications this has on occupancy, how would you describe your priorities for 2024? Are there pet projects that you are spearheading?

This year, our focus is on expansion. The owners are highly optimistic about the future of the Maldives and are keen on expanding within the region. Internally, significant beach improvement projects are planned within the resort to ensure the preservation of our pristine sands for the years ahead. These initiatives are slated for implementation in the coming months. The promising numbers we have seen are bolstered by the increasing number of resorts opening in the Maldives, indicating a thriving tourism industry.

Last year witnessed a substantial surge in tourist arrivals, accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of resorts. Consequently, while overall business has grown, the influx of new resorts has somewhat stabilized occupancy rates for existing properties. Anticipation is high for the opening of the new airport expansion, which is expected to result in increased flight operations, further enhancing accessibility.

Regarding our expansion plans, we secured the acquisition of a second island during the peak of the pandemic, showcasing our confidence in the swift recovery and promising future of the Maldives. We remain steadfast in our commitment to maintaining the highest standards in resort operation and product quality. Thorough site visits to at least 10 islands preceded the opening of our second Emerald resort, a practice we continue this year as we pursue further investments in the Maldives.


Emerald Collection offers personalized experiences where the splendor of the Maldives takes center stage, spanning from gastronomic pleasures at Aqua, Mediterraneo, or Amazónico, to a relaxing escapade at the Emerald Spa. Can you delve into some of the unique and stand-out experiences that guests can indulge in during their journey at each of your splendid venues?

Aqua stands as our primary restaurant, offering dining opportunities for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Despite its buffet format, we strive to ensure that each meal offers a unique experience for our guests. To achieve this, we introduce themed nights at Aqua, showcasing diverse culinary traditions and cultural performances. From a vibrant Maldivian night featuring local delicacies and traditional dances to themed evenings celebrating Latin American, Indian, and Italian cuisines, every night promises a distinctive culinary journey.

In a pioneering move, we are the first all-inclusive resort to abolish dining restrictions, providing guests with the freedom to indulge in their preferred dining experiences. With three à la carte restaurants to choose from, guests can enjoy multiple visits to their favorite establishments without constraint. Notably, our Amazónico restaurant offers a truly unique ambiance, nestled within a lush jungle setting that transports guests to a different realm. Featuring South American and Peruvian cuisine, a rarity in the Maldives, this restaurant boasts a charcoal oven and a captivating atmosphere that evokes a sense of being transported to another part of the world. As Peruvian cuisine gains recognition globally, we anticipate its continued popularity and the emergence of more Peruvian restaurants worldwide.

Furthermore, our Asian restaurant presents an ever-evolving menu, refreshed every three months to showcase the diverse flavors of Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, China, and South Korea. With a dish representing each country, guests are treated to a culinary journey spanning multiple regions within a single menu. Such culinary diversity ensures that even guests staying for an extended period find themselves returning to savor the full spectrum of Asian cuisine offered.


Nestled within a natural paradise and camouflaging itself with the surrounding ecosystem and biodiversity, Emerald Collection is dedicated to sustainable practices, embracing the “Think Green” ethos while actively preserving the local ecosystem. Could you provide more details on the specific green initiatives undertaken at Emerald Collection, and what other measures or initiatives are being implemented across the whole tourism industry of the Maldives to make it truly a sustainable destination?

Regarding Emerald, our fundamental principle is constructing resorts on natural islands, eschewing artificial ones. Throughout Emerald’s construction, the island boasted abundant natural vegetation, including a majestic tree more than half a century old. As construction progressed, we encountered towering trees with extensive histories, prompting us to modify designs to avoid their removal, exemplified by the adjustment of construction plans to preserve these invaluable natural features.

From its inception, guests have noted Emerald’s mature landscape, creating an impression of a well-established island habitat. The island’s lush vegetation not only provides a haven for various bird species but has also fostered the recent appearance of butterflies – a novel occurrence in the Maldives, signaling the flourishing biodiversity.

Island maintenance is entrusted to local islanders, particularly women from nearby communities, who undertake daily cleaning tasks, facilitating employment opportunities while allowing them to remain close to their families. Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond this as we exclusively utilize organic practices, abstaining from chemical fertilizers and producing our organic compost through our food processing plant. Consequently, the island remains verdant and thriving with minimal environmental impact.

An important step in the Maldives’ sustainability efforts was the prohibition of resorts dumping food waste into the ocean, a practice now replaced with on-site food composting machines. This initiative has significantly reduced off-island waste disposal, exemplifying our dedication to responsible waste management.

Looking ahead, we aim to expand our utilization of solar energy, leveraging the island’s ample space for solar panel installations. While we envision a government subsidy to support this endeavor, we commend the government’s stringent regulations governing resort operations and waste management, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility.

Maldivians’ intrinsic pride in their environment is evident in their proactive approach to environmental stewardship. This collective commitment to preserving their cherished surroundings underscores the nation’s dedication to sustainability and conservation.


Travel technology trends for 2024 include mobile platforms, IoT, AI, and voice technology. In what ways are you leveraging the use of technology and innovation to elevate the overall guest experience and provide delightful surprises at your resorts?

Our bespoke Emerald app has been a cornerstone of our guest experience for the past three years, proving particularly invaluable during the pandemic when the transition to paperless operations became imperative. Upon check-in over the past three years, guests waiting for seaplane transfers download the app, input their credentials, and complete registration seamlessly before reaching the resort. The app provides guests with their itinerary and allows them to make event bookings, even prior to arrival, with comprehensive resort information readily accessible.

One of our recent enhancements is the chat feature, catering to our diverse international clientele. This new option enables users to communicate in their preferred language, with messages automatically translated for both operators and guests. Furthermore, our developers are currently working on voice translation capabilities, set to be launched in the near future.

The app houses the entirety of guests’ itineraries, complete with reminders for scheduled activities. For instance, if a guest has a dolphin trip booked for 5pm, the app automatically sends a reminder 10 minutes beforehand. As a result, we have eliminated the need for printed materials entirely, furthering our commitment to sustainability. Additionally, guests can conveniently access their bills through the app.

While technology, including AI, has enhanced certain operational aspects, we remain mindful of preserving the personalized touch that defines our villa host butler service. We understand the importance of genuine human interactions, ensuring that guests still have the option to engage in personalized conversations with their butlers. Technology serves as an additional amenity, offering guests the flexibility to manage their itinerary independently if they so prefer, while still maintaining the warmth and hospitality for which we are known.


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

The Maldives is undeniably a paradise on Earth. While you may have seen countless pictures and videos, I can assure you that they simply do not capture the true essence of this remarkable destination. It offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience that must be witnessed firsthand to be fully appreciated.

I have had the privilege of witnessing guests arriving via seaplane, and as they set foot on this breathtaking land, tears of joy fill their eyes. The sheer beauty and serenity of the Maldives are beyond description. Renowned for its pristine beaches and world-class resorts, the Maldives offers unparalleled warmth, service, and hospitality.

Contrary to common belief about island destinations, where service may be perceived as laid-back or slow, the Maldives breaks the mold. Having worked in other island destinations such as the Seychelles, I can attest that the Maldives sets a new standard for exceptional service. Here, guests can expect nothing short of the best.

Moreover, the Maldives is a beacon of inclusivity and respect, welcoming visitors from all corners of the globe with open arms. Regardless of one’s background or origin, everyone is treated with equal dignity and kindness. Indeed, this paradise awaits your arrival, promising an unforgettable journey unlike any other.