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Championing eco hotel management – Hotelier Maldives

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Jacopo Doria is no stranger to the Maldives. A native of Milan, Italy, he set foot on Male’s sandy roads in 1990 and was amazed by the country’s beauty upon arrival. He witnessed the Republic’s development into one of the most iconic destinations on Earth.

Jacopo’s background in economic studies aligned with his passion for sports, making him an ideal fit as the Sports Manager in a holiday club in Italy. However, it was in the Maldives that his career took a twist. Club Vacanze, the pioneering Italian tour operator, offered him a starting point for his career in the world of holiday clubs in Boduhithi. At the time, Club Vacanze was one of the largest tour operators and managed several properties in the Maldives.

Over the years, Jacopo has worked with various hotel management companies and tour operators. Starting from 2002, he worked as a General Manager in several countries in addition to the Maldives, including Greece, Kenya, Seychelles, and Zanzibar. He returned to the Maldives from 2003 to 2005 as the Managing Director of Holiday Club Maldives, the hotel management company of Club Vacanze, which operated four resorts: Boduhithi, Kudahithi, Gangehi, and Kudarah. During that time, he experienced the devastating tsunami of 2004 and, together with his team, successfully reopened the partially damaged Gangehi Resort in just 10 days.

Jacopo’s attention to nature and its preservation is not a last-minute interest. Working in diverse countries over decades has sensitised him to the importance of sustainability in the hotel industry. His first attempt to engage guests in sustainable practices and cooperate with marine biologists took place in 1995 when he implemented a pioneering ‘Ecoclub’ at the Villaggio Mediterraneo in Alonissos, Greece. Over the years, he has developed his own entrepreneurial project with an Eco-certified hotel called casaDoria (SlowLifeHotel) & Restaurant on the island of Crete, Greece.

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In 2017, Jacopo collaborated with bio-architecture professionals, ECO certification auditors, and international marketing managers to create Hotel Eco Management – HECOM.it, a consulting team that promotes the values of sustainability and respect for nature as integral parts of the hospitality business.

Jacopo returned to the Maldives once again from 2018 to 2019 as the General Manager at Gangehi Island Resort & Spa.

Currently, since February 2022, Jacopo serves as the General Manager at Nika Island Resort & Spa in Ari Atoll, Maldives. This property is quite unique and iconic, celebrating its 40th anniversary since its founding. The resort was one of the first to open in the region and features a museum showcasing local cultural heritage, sustainable initiatives, and labs.

Jacopo shares a shared vision and understanding with Mrs. Giovanna Bellazzi, the property owner, which made it possible to implement an environmental sustainability protocol. The newly established “Nika Green Path” acknowledges the existing ecological actions and encompasses all new coherent initiatives. All operational policies of the resort are designed in line with sustainable and environmentally friendly values.

Commenting on the destination’s growth over the past five decades, Jacopo states, “In my opinion, the industry is growing too fast and in a non-sustainable manner. I am apprehensive that the Maldives may lose its edge as an exclusive destination. The many unique and remarkable attributes of the Maldives should be preserved by everyone, including locals and international organisations. For me, the Maldives represents nature at its best, which clashes with the ultra-luxury trend. The competition for the top ranking is very intense.”

Another aspect of the growth trajectory that concerns Jacopo is the environmental cost.

“I am also very concerned about the reliance on plastic in hotel operations in the Maldives. The delicate environment surrounding the islands can easily become a junkyard. We have reported microplastics on deserted islands, along with other forms of pollution. This can damage and eventually poison the entire ecosystem, starting with the fish and other living organisms in the sea,” he says.

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In fact, reducing plastic consumption at Nika Island Resort has been one of the top priorities in recent years. Since taking over as General Manager in February 2022, Jacopo has boosted this process. As a result of the implemented practices, Nika Island now saves 45,200 jam single-portion packs, 33,600 plastic straws, 12,600 yogurt cups, 8,500 plastic courtesy sets, 25,000 plastic rubbish bags, and 150,000 plastic water bottles per year. Furthermore, Jacopo is highly involved in waste management and the production of energy for the resort through alternative sources.

“Nika Island has a very strong relationship with local communities. Bodufolhudhoo, with 800 residents, is the closest neighbour. Almost all our Maldivian staff members come from there,” he says.

This is also the legacy of the founder, Gianpiero Bellazzi, who developed Nika in 1983. He maintained a close relationship with the community and even took staff members to Italy for training and industry exposure.

“We are trying to support Bodufolhudhoo in the best possible way. The project is to establish the first real collaboration between a resort and a local island. The plan is to create a solar power plant on Bodufolhudhoo. This initiative will provide local job opportunities and renewable energy availability for both islands through undersea cables,” said Jacopo.

Due to the island’s conservation efforts and its magnificent coral architecture, Nika Island Resort was designated as the world’s first “kind island” by the International Kindness Movement last April. Travellers can truly experience the Maldives of the early tourism era in a forward-thinking environment, thanks to the island’s commitment to conservation.

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