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Our Gili Story
WRITER: Elwin Chan PHOTOS BY: John Heng, Alvin Toh
Our Gili Story 25. March 2020, by Elwin Chan, Photos by John Heng, Alvin Toh
Gili Lankanfushi – where you arrive as a guest, leave as a friend, and return as family.

Located just 20 minutes by speedboat from Malé, Gili Lankanfushi is a rare jewel glistening in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The eco-luxury resort recently reopened after a year-long renovation. Before the hiatus, it had been voted the Number One Resort in the Maldives and Top Five Best Hotels in the World in Tripadvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards. Needless to say, the reopening has been received with much fanfare and anticipation.

“It’s the people,” says Tammy Gan, who is the Marketing Communications Manager at Gili Lankanfushi. “We have the stunning beauty of a huge lagoon, with luxurious overwater villas that let guests get up close and personal with nature. Our F&B offering is excellent. But it is the people who make Gili truly special,” Tammy explains.

Indeed, one could feel a palpable sense of energy and excitement among the 280 staff who call Gili Lankanfushi home. “Everyone has been looking forward to coming back. I have missed their warmth and laughter,” says Tammy.

There is a wonderful and profound saying at Gili Lankanfushi, where you “arrive as a guest, leave as a friend, and return as family”. This brand of kinship and heartfelt hospitality really begins from the hosts at Gili Lankanfushi. There is a genuine sense of care, concern, and camaraderie among the hosts here. Ask anyone, and they would have a story to share. A moment, a memory, a milestone that brings a smile to their friendly faces.

These are the stories that prompted the resort to start a project called #GiliStory. The intention is to build a treasured collection of these precious memories. Everyone who has had an encounter with Gili Lankanfushi would have a Gili Story. In the end, it is these kindred stories, filled with dreams, love and hope, that connect us all.

Roberto, Alberto and Giusy

Besides hailing from Mediterranean Europe, and sharing a love for travelling, Roberto Arganese, Giusy Magni, and Alberto Romo Maroto also happen to be part of the Sales and Marketing team for Gili Lankanfushi. Roberto himself is the director of the department and has been with the resort for nine years. He started out in the tourism industry as a tour guide more than 20 years ago.

“Gili is family to me,” Roberto says. “Like Giusy and Alberto, I’m based in Europe. But I come back to Gili several times a year. Every time I’m back, I see all the familiar faces and it warms my heart,” he smiles.

Roberto describes the Gili guest as someone who is discerning, sophisticated, and loves to connect with nature. They also appreciate the authentic experiences and genuine service provided by the resort. “It’s about building a relationship. This is a fast-moving industry, and new resorts open in the Maldives every year. But what keeps our guests coming back is the bond and the relationship we have built with them,” he adds.

Alberto, who works out of Madrid, concurs, “The Gili guest appreciates high quality service. And over here, you get nothing short of the very best. The Mr. Fridays (as the resort’s personal concierge are known) provide attentive service that exceeds guests’ expectations every time. Guests also like the ‘no news, no shoes’ concept of barefoot luxury. The experience is elevated, yet never pretentious or overly formal.”

For Alberto, the charm of Gili Lankanfushi also lies in the fact that he can be in the middle of nowhere, to get away from it all and reconnect with self and nature. “As mindsets change, people are more and more focused on sustainability and showing care for the environment. They want to make more ethical choices for themselves. It’s about healthy eating and healthy living, all while being conscious of the impact we have on the environment,” Alberto adds.

Indeed, Gili Lankanfushi’s beautiful natural surrounds is what Giusy finds exceptionally charming. Based in Lake Como in Italy, Giusy thinks the Maldives is the picture of a perfect paradise. “Blue waters, white sandy beaches, and astounding, abundant wildlife. This is what I love about the Maldives,” she explains. “When it comes to romance, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the other person. You fall in love again,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.

“At Gili Lankanfushi, everything is done to make your vacation extra special. No detail is too small for the team. The Mr. Fridays anticipate your needs. The food is exceptional and caters to all diets. The recent renovation adds a lounge vibe to the ambiance, yet it still feels absolutely private and exclusive. At Gili Lankanfushi, you can just come as you are. Everything else will be taken care of. Feel pampered, feel free, feel like you are home,” Giusy says.

Sakis Papadopoulos

For Greek photographer Sakis Papadopoulos, his Gili Story began seven years ago when he first visited the resort. “Gili Lankanfushi is special. The geography lends itself to a tranquil, magical setting. You have a captivating lagoon teeming with marine life, with beautiful overwater villas right above the turquoise seas. That, together with the impeccable service and food, make the experience here absolutely sublime,” he observes.

Sakis’ love story, though, began much earlier, almost 20 years ago right in the Maldives. He had met his wife while they were both working there. Suffice to say, love blossomed against the paradisiacal backdrop of the tropical sun, sea and sand, and five years later, they got married, had a son, and started a family.

“What is so unique about the Maldives is the endless blue. It is a kingdom of islands, all 1,192 of them, with an infinity of blue that your eyes cannot even reach. Everyone falls in love with the Maldives and they come back again and again,” Sakis says.

It is this stunning beauty that the photographer wants to capture. He explains, “My motivation is to capture the essence of a place. The clear skies, the beautiful waters. The quest for the perfect shot keeps my adrenalin pumping.”

Ismail Bushry and Ibrahim Shyam

Senior housekeeper Ismail Bushry and tailor Ibrahim Shyam are two of the 280 people who work round the clock at Gili Lankanfushi to make sure that guests feel completely at home and that all their needs are well taken care of. Ismail, who has been with the resort for more than 15 years, has risen through the ranks from housekeeping supervisor to senior housekeeper. Today, he co-leads a team of almost 50 people, which includes fellow Maldivian Ibrahim Shyam. Ibrahim is part of a four-man tailoring department that fabricates almost everything at the resort including cushion and mattress covers, roman blinds, made-to-measure uniforms, napkins, placemats, souvenirs, and even covers for bicycle pedals. Both of the men’s long service at Gili Lankanfushi is testament that this haven has become their home and that friends and colleagues here have grown to become family.

 Ahmed Rasheed and Mifzal Mohamed

One of the best embodiments of Gili Lankanfushi’s ethos comes in the form of Mr. Fridays, the resort’s personal assistants to guests. Named after Robinson Crusoe’s loyal assistant and beloved friend, Gili Lankanfushi’s bevy of 13 Mr. and Ms. Fridays tend to their guests’ every need. Assisting in supervising this team is Ahmed Rasheed, who has spent eight of his 15 years in the resort as a Mr. Friday. Rasheed believes that an important quality of a Mr. Friday is to be people-oriented, a trait that can be seen in his sincere and sunny disposition. At the moment, Rasheed is also mentoring Mifzal Mohamed, who has shown exceptional potential in his willingness to learn. “The greatest satisfaction comes from seeing my guests happy,” Rasheed says just before zipping off with Mifzal to surprise their guests with a wedding anniversary celebration.