How Sonu started from Maldives and expanded into the world

Sunday, 11 January 2009 19:16

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Hoteliers around the globe may be suffering cold sweats as the economic meltdown hits occupancy rates hard, but Six Senses Resorts & Spas CEO Sonu Shivdasani tells Arabian Business he is confident his luxury chain will emerge stronger in 2009. Following are edited extracts from the story on www.arabianbusiness.com/

Even staring down the barrel of the most severe global economic downturn in living memory, Sonu Shivdasani is so relaxed that you could be forgiven for thinking he has just spent a week at one of his own resorts.

"I would be much more concerned if I were selling luxury handbags," smiles the founder and CEO of Six Senses Resorts & Spas, leaning back in his seat. "They just sit in your cupboard and you can do without them for a few years.
The same cannot be said of holidays - if anything, Shivdasani believes the need to travel has never been greater. It's a bold statement considering the financial meltdown is expected to hit hotels and airlines hard in 2009. But the Oxford-educated Englishman - who oversees 14 island and hideaway retreats at various locations including the Middle East (and the Maldives) - insists the outlook is brighter than some are forecasting.

Before the financial crisis, he argues, long-haul and short-haul holidays were the top two priorities for people looking to spend their disposable incomes, followed by luxury goods. Since the downturn, Shivdasani insists that while holidays are still on the agenda, luxury goods have dropped off the radar.

"People feel [holidays are] a return on life," Shivdasani says. "If they have the money in the bank they say, ‘this is the time we need to bond together as a family because it's so gloomy and cold in England or France,'for example.

"You put on the TV and see the economic crisis and job market going up and down with redundancies being announced and it's cold outside, so people feel they need to get away from it all," he adds.

Adding further weight to his argument, Shivdasani recalls a recent conversation he had with Matthew Upchurch, chairman of US travel agent association Virtuoso. The American organisation launched the ‘Return on Life' campaign last year, encouraging people to spend more time travelling with their families and friends.

"In the current crisis, Matthew is saying, ‘if you cancel a holiday this year you have lost that time and it's gone from your life,'" Shivdasani explains. "If you don't upgrade from the old BMW 7 Series to the next one you can always do it in two years time; this won't really affect your lifestyle, but the time for having a holiday is gone forever." .......Read more

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