Steven Phillips is General Manager of Gili Lankanfushi, the world-class resort in the Maldives. He joined the property in January 2014 and has worked all around the world, including in Sri Lanka, Mauritius, the UAE, Japan and Grenada.
Stephen tells Luxurious Magazine about his passion for the hotel and luxury industry and some exciting developments for Gili Lankanfushi.
What do you feel are Gili Lankanfushi’s top attractions/best reasons to stay?
There are many Maldivian luxury resorts but two things stand out. First of all, our team is outstanding – from our ‘Fridays’ [semi-butlers for guests], to those who work tremendously hard behind the scenes to always go the extra mile. They are all so friendly, warm but professional and have high standards. Secondly, it’s our design concept, which is built around being imperfectly perfect. The intention is to capture a holistic environment where the nature embraces you and you can enjoy the beauty of it – come rain or shine, whether you are enjoying watching the stars on the rooftop deck of your villa, or splashing around in the lagoon, or reading a book in your room. The villas are also spacious at 250 square metres in size but they are still rustic and have charm. Our Meera spa is also very spectacular.
What recent improvements/offerings have you introduced since you started as the GM?
We’ve introduced an air-conditioned sushi room with teppanyaki grill at our By The Sea Japanese restaurant. We’ve also re-invested in staff training to improve the overall quality of our guest’s experience.
What exciting developments do you have in store for Gili Lankanfushi over the next six months to one year and if you can tell us, what are your dreams/plans for Gili in the next five years?
Our Private Reserve is the largest overwater villa in the world and has just become even larger. Its size is increasing to 1700 square metres with a large swimming pool, private cinema, gym, spa, water slide, lagoon and the tag of ‘privacy exclusively yours’. We are also setting up a Reserve Club, which will be exclusively accessible only for those who have previously stayed at the Reserve and for new guests to form an elite networking club.
We will also be building a villa at the end of one of our jetties on Three Palm Island which will be the first ever villa in the world that will be set over both land and water. It will have three bedrooms with a rope bridge crossing guests from the land space to the sea space and will feature a saltwater swimming pool in front of it. This is planned to open in 2017.
We are working with a company called Tropic Surf to develop a dive centre and we have some of the best surf sites in the Maldives which are only a few hundred metres away, so we plan to Gilify it and set up a surf centre! Finally, we are pushing for a second property – we are not sure where in the world it will be but it has got to be a very special place.
What’s the most extravagant request you have succeeded in fulfilling for your guests?
We once had to put a grand piano in a water villa for a guest. We brought it in from Sri Lanka by flight, then on a boat from Male to the resort and then on little dinghies to the water villa. We also once had a guest who had 84 pages of dietary requirements during his four-day visit, so it proves we can do anything to ensure our guests are comfortable when they stay with us, provided we have enough notice.
Define what luxury personally means to you.
Being able to get what I need when I need it. It doesn’t have to be designer item, or following a trend, or the price tag but just what I would like to have or experience.
If you could choose to live or holiday anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Perigord in south-west France, which is slightly north-east of Bordeaux, where they have great wine, truffles, nice French people, a stunning countryside and you can go foraging for mushrooms.
What’s your favourite type of cuisine/s and choice of drink at a bar?
I have two: Salt Marsh lamb with risotto with marbled truffle flakes and Ivor Dewdney pasties – it’s a small pasty shop in Plymouth but people queue up for them for miles. My favourite drinks are bourbon and I love drinking red wine too, especially Antinori.
What is the most coveted item you own and why is it so special to you?
A solid gold Omega watch that my father gave to me. it’s precious because my brother and I were both given gold watches by my father but he later realised that mine was gold plated, so he gave me his to inherit when he passed away.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Scuba diving – I love it because you need to concentrate only on the diving and there’s so much to grab your attention when underwater. I also enjoy being a couch potato on a Sunday and have started to do a lot of reading lately, including cookbooks.
What inspires you?
People who have amazing attitudes. You can have all the wealth or best products in the world but it costs nothing to have a great attitude and approach.