Donatella Telli popularly known as “Dodi” across the Maldives’ leisure boating landscape – the journey behind her 36 years of extensive experience in promoting Maldivian Liveaboards and Yachts. Our team at The Islandchief sits with her onboard “Duke of York” to learn more about how she began back then and how things have transformed over the years.
Dodi, tell us about your first visit to the Maldives.
I set foot on the sandy beaches of the Maldives the first time, many years ago, in 1980 with my parents on the island of Furana. What a wonderful experience! Can you even imagine what the coral reef looked like around that time? I was already a diver back then and from that holiday I began to love this splendid archipelago more and more both above and below the surface.
How did you get interested in starting a cruise business and sending people to dive and stay on the boat?
The idea and further decision to start organizing Maldives cruises was dictated by the fact that, for divers but not only, it was and still is the best way to live the sea, navigating in search of the most beautiful and engaging places, which obviously cannot be done in a village.
It was also a choice of life for me, living aboard a safari boat was a dream that I managed to achieve with my husband and life and adventure companion Massimo.
What were the challenges of running a cruise operator business that promoted an industry in the 1990s?
First of all, I would say that the most difficult thing was convincing customers that a cruise holiday is an experience that is absolutely worth doing. Then it was a little hard -but good fun- teaching the Maldivian staff crew and dive masters how to fulfill the requests of the guests on board.
Now that you've come this far and with over three decades in business, what did you like most about the boating industry and advise us what still needs to be changed in your thoughts?
What has always charmed me about working in the Maldives is the friendliness of the people and their keenness on learning and to deliver a superior service to guests. Whilst the biggest challenge is, on one hand, Maldivians realize the environment is their number one source of life and success, on the other - the authorities still need to improve the measures of protection of the delicate environment. Protecting the reefs, fishing sustainability, garbage sorting and so forth: everything is implemented but a lot more can be done to improve the results.
What are your main markets? Are you focused on a region? For example, only Europe?
Definitely the European market, Italy first, but also the rest of the world, from Asia to America. By now, with the internet and social media, I would say the whole world.
What makes the tourist unique when choosing your Luxury Yacht Maldives? What extra guarantee do you give to your guests in the operating standard?
Our standards are recognized and verified by due authorities and we are well known for years in this industry. Apart from regular activities of checks and maintenance, we definitely can deliver a service that is almost fully tailor made for each guest: we can personalize the cruise for all passengers, our 30 years’ experience guarantees a knowledge and familiarity with country, people and marine biology that has very little competition, and, let me tell you, that touch of “italianity” that we put in everything on board - from quality and attention of the service to the cuisine (of course!) and the whole atmosphere between crew and guests.
What is your opinion on the positioning of the nautical sector? What are the challenges and how can the industry overcome them?
Much can be definitely done in the area of maintenance - repair services. There’s room for improvement. Over the years, the boats have become more comfortable but challenging to manage from the technical point of view.
You must have sailed, dived, and taken your guests to nearly all good locations. What's your favorite shot?
The whole Maldivian archipelago is breath-taking, obviously when many atolls were still closed to tourism they had a particular charm, especially in the fishermen's islands with their inhabitants. Now everything has changed. I am lucky to have lived that "magical period" and above all to have made it known to our customers.
How do you see the future of the Maldivian boating industry? What's your advice for improvement?
I believe that with the ever-high standards of cruising boats, this market will open up more and more to a demanding and sophisticated clientele. The preparation of the crew and the professionalism of all the staff both on board and in the organization will then be crucial.
What precautionary measures have been taken by Luxury Yacht Maldives for a safe trip?
Our vessels are EIFEC certified as per Health Emergency Risk Compliance Management System (HER-CMS) in epidemic context. Our onboard safety conditions are constantly screened and updated according to the rules and regulations of the Republic of Maldives. We apply very strict safety measures as per our approved and certified safety plans.
For example, for boat cleaning and disinfecting procedures:
*Boat is constantly washed with soap and water, especially in common areas where touch points can be multiple.
*Boat is disinfected with diluted bleach solution 1 m l bleach to 9 ml water (keep for 10 minutes)
*Boat is sanitized with an Ozone machine.
No common rinsing tanks are used to rinse any piece of equipment, while stern showers are available for single use. Guests keep their own equipment in their individual basket, making sure no one else touches them except themselves. At the end of every safari, the crew responsible for cleaning and disinfecting the equipment will clean and disinfect masks, snorkels and regulators, and all mouthpieces will be protected and isolated in plastic, in order to avoid any contact with people or surrounding objects.
It’s a good deal of extra work for our crew, but we will do our part to take part in making this pandemic nightmare end and help the world and tourism heal and reprise a normal rhythm.
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