The Rebirth of Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas
XO Private Interview

 Born and bred in France, Lionel Ferrari first landed in Seychelles on Maia's pre-opening team as a trainee and made his way up to Front Office Manager. After a swift detour working in F&B in El Salvador, Lionel travelled back to Seychelles as the EAM at Paradise Sun for 3 years, after which he took over as General Manager at the very young age of 32. Lionel returned to his beloved Island 4 years ago as the General Manager of the now Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas.  Lionel and his worldly family believe travel to be a way of life and lovers of underwater life, anything related to nature, conservation, sustainability.

Join us for this interesting new interview and find out more about this iconic property and its fearless leader!

Where are you originally from and how did you end up in the Seychelles?

I am originally from France and arrived in Seychelles for a four-month internship for the pre-opening of a luxury resort. Seven years later I took my first GM position and since then grew to manage one of the most exclusive resorts in Seychelles.

You are currently overseeing the rebranding of the Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas by the Minor International group. What does that mean exactly in terms of operations? Does it represent more than just a name change?

Absolutely, I must say that the Anantara brand and the concept of Maia are very aligned, hence we did not need to change so much from an operational point of view but rather ensure we add the Anantara signature experiences and touchpoints to enhance the resort offering while maintaining what was already making this property very special and unique. There are also some very exciting upcoming projects in the pipeline for the resort and we look forward to being able to share them with our partners soon.

How would you describe the DNA of Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas? What are your goals for the future?

The DNA of the property is to offer genuine hospitality, intuitive service, and very importantly, guests come to stay at Anantara Maia to forget and be forgotten from the world and to reconnect with themselves. This is embodied in everything we do in the resort.  

"The DNA of the property is to offer genuine hospitality, intuitive service, and very importantly, guests come to stay at Anantara Maia to forget and be forgotten from the world and to reconnect with themselves" 
Which are your most important markets today? Which new markets are you seeking to enter?

We have seen very good performances from markets such as Germany, UK, UAE, and Russia. Markets that are upcoming include the US and both Central and Eastern Europe, to name a few. Of course, Covid has impacted this and a lot has changed but we’ve seen the resilience of our industry by how quickly Seychelles as a destination has been able to relaunch.

The industry has changed significantly over the years. What trend or similar has impacted your operations most?

Our guests are looking for special memories to take home with them and also experiences that they can share with their friends ‘now’. Social Media definitely plays an important role and our team is constantly creating different and exclusive experiences. Our guests are in search of simplicity, nature, and opportunities to connect with the local community. Our concept matches these new requirements by offering complete freedom to our guests to enjoy their holidays at their own pace.

Our concept matches 100% of the new requirements by offering complete freedom to our guests to live their holidays at their own pace. We believe we owe it to them in those tough times to offer them one hideaway where only they decide. Combined with our dedicated villa hosts as their personal assistants throughout their stay, it cannot be easier.

What does the word 'experiential' mean to you and does it play any role of importance at Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas?

Everything that we create at Anantara Maia is geared toward creating an emotion, a great memory for our guests. Each guest has a different expectation and therefore our dedicated Villa Hosts can use creativity and be proactive in order to deliver exactly what the guests want – but this is done intuitively and delivered before the guest asks for it. That is the whole purpose behind the dedicated Villa Host – to provide uninterrupted attention with undivided privacy.
Lionel Ferrari — General Manager of Anantara Maia Seychelles Villas  
"Travelling is a way of life and not a commodity for me and my family. My wife is Brazilian, I am French and my daughter was born in Seychelles."
Which are the most unique experiences available to your guests both on as well as off property?

It can be as simple as a beautiful dinner under the stars on the beach, a full moon massage on the helipad, or a helicopter discovery of the islands where the Villa Host escorts the guest as a private guide/assistant. We have arranged proposals on hidden beaches with our teams creating a trail of clues and personal details along the way.

We create tailor-made experiences for each guest to ensure they find the relaxation or the thrills they are looking for. That is the whole purpose behind the dedicated villa host. He has no other guests to take care of and can focus all of his attention to reading his guests and ensure that he tailors the experience to each of their desires. They provide uninterrupted attention with a undivided privacy.

Could you share a most inspiring or hilarious anecdote that happened under your watch at your property?

Not long ago we had a guest that was extremely emotional about everything during her stay and so appreciative of every attention to detail. At the same time, we received a donation from SIF (Seychelles Island Fundation) who manages the Vallee de Mai, 4 Coco De Mer.

The team decided to organize a special garden tour of the resort and finish with a planting ceremony for the guest to be part of, which created a very special moment planting such a symbol in our property. It was tears of emotions all along – it was amazing to see how much this touched the guest. 
"We create tailor-made experiences for each guest to ensure they find the relaxation or the thrills they are looking for"
You have been operating in the Seychelles for more than 10 years. How has the destination developed over the years and what are the USPs of the Seychelles into the future?

Seychelles is such a beautiful destination and after so many years I am still in awe of the respect to nature and conscious development. Tourism is the main pillar of the economy and therefore takes a strong emphasis on every decision. Before agreeing on new tourism developments the government and authorities analyze the load factor of planes in all categories, the sources, and the average spend, to understand the occupancy factors of the properties and whether new development will respond to a demand or put pressure on occupancies.

The destination has taken some very strong steps in sustainability, keeping the nature at the heart of everything in order to protect what makes it so beautiful.

What would be your most important piece of advice for anyone seeking to visit the Seychelles?

Do not try to do everything at once, ensure you maximize your time between discovery and relaxation in order to keep some experiences for the next visit. Seychelles is also an island-hopping destination and therefore visiting the other islands is a must.
Yvan Vermeesch
Belgian by birth, Yvan Vermeesch grew up across Africa before heading to the Caribbean followed by the stunning city of Prague before calling the Mediterranean island of Mallorca home. Always looking to innovate across the board and with a clear penchant for everything experiential in travel, Yvan Vermeesch takes great pride in connecting the finest players in bespoke travel around the globe.