The creation story of Soneva is equal parts romance and fairy tale.
It’s about a British-born, self-proclaimed ‘accidental hotelier’, Sonu Shivdasani and his wife Eva, a Swedish model with impeccable taste, who created their very own idea of utopia. A world where their mutual passion for wellness, architecture, wine, travel, literature, art, and above all else, the environment, combine.
Five years later, they opened their first resort on the island and named it Soneva (after Sonu and Eva) Fushi (which means ‘island’ in Dhivehi).
Sonu and Eva are the founders of Soneva and their philosophy is imbued across every touchpoint of the business, however, theirs is not the only tale worth telling. Behind the success, sustainability and magnetism of the brand is a whole universe of dedicated, innovative individuals known as the ‘Soneva hosts’.
Soneva is well aware that it’s the company’s hosts who have set up water bottling plants on their local islands, who run waste management training with their own communities, who teach local children to swim and introduce them to the wonder and the fragility of the ocean. It is through their hard work that the global blueprint for sustainable resort operations exists.
Since its inception, Soneva has supported the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact in the areas of Human Rights, Labour, Environment and Anti-Corruption. These principles are measured and refined year on year, and in essence, highlight the company’s constant efforts to respect the protection of human rights; create gender equality in the workforce; emphasise local employment; and offer competitive salaries and desirable living arrangements for hosts.
In 2018, Soneva unveiled an aspirational female employment target for its Maldivian properties, where the unemployment rate for female adults is three times that of males and where Maldivian women make up only four per cent of the workforce in resorts, compared to women constituting 45% in industries such as education, healthcare and the civil service.
Fathimath Shaazleen, or Shaaz as she is affectionately known, represents just one of the many success stories to come out of Soneva in the past two decades. Hailing from a local island in the Maldives, Shaaz began her career as a telephone operator after she passed her diploma in hospitality with distinction. In 2000 she joined Soneva Fushi in guest relations and two years later was promoted to Friday Supervisor. She left Soneva in 2004 but found her way back and re-joined in 2009 at Soneva Kiri in Thailand as Rooms Division Manager.
After moving back to the Maldives, Shaaz was offered the position of Resort Manager at Soneva Jani and then became the first Maldivian female to become Resort General Manager. Today she continues to be a source of inspiration for women – both local and foreign.
Globally, there are thousands of Soneva employees; all of whom play an equally important role in creating the iconic, inimitable Soneva experience. From resident astronomers, to marine biologists, environment officers, resident glass blowers, waste-to-wealth managers, wellness instructors, an enormous team of chefs and sommeliers, and the smiling, Robinson Crusoe-inspired team of Mr and Ms Friday private butlers, the humans of Soneva represent possibly the company’s most thriving habitat.
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