Villa Resorts

Brand-led transformation

As its next generation takes the helm, over four years between 2019-2023, Luxury Branding has guided an ambitious brand-led transformation of the family-owned Maldivian resort group Villa Resorts.

Case Study

The Maldives is a bucket list destination for many, but with existing properties confronting heightened competition due to the country’s ongoing development boom, how does one of the earliest operators in the destination stand out within the ever-expanding ‘sea of sameness’?

For Villa Hotels & Resorts – developer, owner and operator of five private islands and with leases for three more islands signed – this challenge prompted the new Group Managing Director, Ibrahim Qasim, to engage Luxury Branding. And so Project Blue Ocean was born; the formidable top-to-bottom, inside-to-out transformation of the company and its offering to guests across more than 1,100 rooms.

Project Blue Ocean represents a shift from competing on volume and price towards growing earnings by creating value for guests with fresh concepts, improved hardware, elevated service, innovative programming and brilliant branding.

A Blue Ocean Shift

Since 1986, Villa Hotels & Resorts has successfully been running its five resorts, with the Group’s founding family proving themselves as local pioneers in the Maldives tourism industry. 

But despite enjoying high occupancy rates, the new leadership team recognised that the strategies that had served them well over the previous four decades were likely not the same ones that would lead them to realise the next generation of the family’s future goals.

Following an intensive immersion visit to each resort island in the current portfolio, we established six objectives for Project Blue Ocean that included raising visibility for the Group brand and its five resort hotels, elevating the end-to-end guest experience, and improving the guest profile and rates, as well as penetration into key source markets.

Guiding Lights

We had to significantly shift the company’s organisational mindset and operational approach to build a foundation for the future strategy. We began by underpinning the transformation process with a new ideology comprising a renewed Vision, Purpose and Values. Once embedded, this became an essential catalyst for the change ahead.

Through workshops with the leadership team and subsequently, with a wide range of rank and file team members, we enabled Villa to describe their Vision of ‘A World Where People and Place Live in Harmony’. They then determined their Purpose to ‘Restore Peace of Mind and Serenity of Soul’ and identified three Core Values of ‘Humility, Optimism and Family’.   

We introduced the company’s new philosophy to the organisation via a three-step foundation course: communicate, engage, enrol and pledge. The next step was translating the Values and Actionable Beliefs into world-class service standards in partnership with Forbes Travel Guide.

Distinct Resort Concepts

With this powerful shared ideology fully installed, we devised a framework that would be flexible enough to accommodate a growing number of resort sub-brands.

In a notable change from the previous strategy, we opted to reposition each island behind a unique Resort Concept focused on the unmet needs and wants of a distinct traveller tribe. Governed by these individual concepts, this approach effectively produced a family of new ‘Villa’ sub-brands, which prevented the islands from competing against one another as before.

In line with these new Resort Concepts, the rooms, restaurants and public areas have been upgraded and refurbished with interiors created by Jojo Barr of London studio, House Nine. In addition, with a unique set of guest segments in mind, innovative programming – distinct to each island – has been designed by Luxury Branding in close collaboration with the local operations teams.

Unifying Master Brand 

Next, we simplified the Villa Hotels & Resorts master brand to Villa Resorts. Finally, we designed a graphics system to unify the properties typographically while providing sufficient creative latitude for a distinct new concept and personality of each island Concept to shine through.

Set in an elegant chiselled modern typeface and underpinned by a simple sans-serif locator, the revised visual identity is contemporary while paying homage to the history and natural wonder of the islands.

At the resort level, the ‘Villa’ prefix assumes the role of the master brand while the suffix (e.g. Park, Nautica, Haven, Village etc.) represents the Resort Concept.

We invested each resort sub-brand with a unique personality, reflected in bespoke typography, imagery, colour palettes and styles of communication. This system allows each property to make the most of its story and audience while benefiting from close association with the master brand.

Villa Haven

Opening in Q4 2023, following a complete remodelling of the former Holiday Island, Villa Haven will become the luxury flagship of Villa Resorts.

Under a Resort Concept called ‘Humble Heaven’, we have conceptualised Villa Haven for five target audiences known collectively as the Simple Sybarites, who demonstrate a shared need for Beautiful Bare Necessities. 

The resort design is rooted in nature and transcends the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, offering a healing centre where guests can reconnect to what matters most. The new interior design celebrates nature’s beautiful basics by using sustainable materials and showcasing the islanders’ native creativity. 

Signature programming activates the Resort Concept at Villa Haven in a set of magical moments – or branded differentiators – called Humble Hallmarks. These activations and signature experiences include Holhuashi storytelling by the fireside, heightened sensory experiences with clay and scent, and the preservation of traditional toddy tapping.

Villa Nautica

We defined the five target audiences for Villa Nautica as a collective tribe of Showboaters with a shared desire for Scene Seeking.

The Resort Concept of Quayside Life marries the cosmopolitan glitz of yacht life with a buzzing vitality and relaxed sociability. A sophisticated nautical theme is woven through the updated design of the resort’s bedrooms and public areas.

The branded differentiators at Villa Nautica are called Nautical Knots and include secluded picnics on the seawall, a chic concept store full of trinkets and treasures, and a pop-up club night under the stars.

Villa Park

At Villa Park, the five target audiences are the Fun Fanatics, who share a desire for Effortless Enjoyment.

The distinct Resort Concept of Lagoon Pleasureground captures the hive of energy and activity of the island, which is reflected further through the bold use of colour in its interiors, complementing the island’s naturally exotic scenery. 

The branded differentiators here are a treasure trove of diversions and amusements called Playtime Pursuits. With a vast island to explore, guests can challenge themselves with a treetop adventure or high-energy fitness class, relax amongst the trees in a Kawa bath, or gather with new friends at the Brazilian-inspired driftwood beach bar, La Tropicana.


In addition to activating the new Resort Concepts with the original programming of branded differentiators unique to each island property, we also employed the expertise of strategic partners to support the elevation of the brand’s overall guest experience. 

In partnership with world-renowned sommelier Kent Scheermeyer, we created an exclusive collection of award-winning South African wines and MCC for Villa Resorts, branded under the Sandstone label. 

The name, Sandstone, celebrates the merging of two countries and two landscapes. We delivered Sandstone to the sandy shores of the Maldives from the stone mountains of the Cape’s beautiful vineyards.

Press & Pot

We also collaborated with Cape Town coffee roastery, Deluxe Coffeeworks, to develop Villa Resorts’ house coffee brand, Press&Pot. 

To create real value for guests with improved products and services, Villa Resorts ethically sources and imports its own green beans and roasts them on-site at Villa Nautica for distribution across all of the company’s islands. Press&Pot will also be available at Male International airport and in the Villa Group’s chain of local supermarkets.

On-site, Press & Pot coffee is served by expertly trained baristas and sold through various retail channels for guests to enjoy at home. 

Designed to stand alone as its sub-brand while remaining complementary to others within the master brand family, a fresh and modern colour palette is lifted further with witty illustrations.

Villa Vamos

In June 2022, we accompanied 26 of Villa Resorts’ head office and operational leaders on Villa Vamos, a discovery expedition to Cape Town. Again, we thoughtfully designed a packed itinerary to ignite attendees’ imaginations and inspire them to drive innovation back at their resorts.

Over five days, we visited 52 different venues, meeting countless talented people. We enjoyed best-in-class hospitality at the Belmond Mount Nelson, spent a day in the life of a Cape Town foodie, sampling delicacies from long-standing institutions and pop-ups, brainstormed ideas for signature programming inspired by local entrepreneurs, and explored the coastal areas and winelands that surround the city.

To find out more about the expedition and learnings, visit or @villa_vamos

Altogether Maldivian 

To support the reveal of the new Villa Resorts at ILTM Cannes in December 2022, we conceptualised a brand film centred around the creative platform of Altogether Maldivian.

As one of only a few brands in the Maldives owned, operated, and wholly led by locals, the business is a genuine family enterprise, a family that goes beyond blood to encompass a shared heritage, experience and values with its long-established team.

Eschewing the norms of resort films, we removed guests, eliminated hotel product, and avoided the predictable drone and underwater shots that are heavily relied upon in the destination.

Instead, we created a film true to Villa Resorts’ new ideology, focusing on the natural warmth of its people and the natural wonder of the place as we captured actual team members going about their day-to-day lives on the islands.

Brought to life by FOMO Studios, the film takes centre stage on the new website, built by our friends at Journey Hospitality.