Welcome to our new member – Secret Paradise Maldives
Educational travel is no longer just about providing insight into another culture or country – an interview with Ruth Franklin of Maldives-based tour operator Secret Paradise
Primarily perceived as a honeymoon and luxury resort destination, according to Ruth Franklin, the Maldives is also the perfect experiential learning destination for young people to travel with purpose. We spoke with Ruth Franklin, Co-founder and Director of Secret Paradise about the Maldives as a youth travel destination and the unique opportunities it affords when it comes to engaging with local people and culture while enjoying a spectacular marine environment.
Why the Maldives?
In a place famed for its luxury resorts, local island tourism was only introduced in 2011. A chance meeting and the support of a local businessperson came together in 2012, translating into an opportunity for me. I had discovered the Maldives years earlier, visiting as a scuba diver in search of mantas and whale sharks. Back then I able to stay in a reasonably priced resort which allowed me to indulge in my hobby, but it wasn’t long before my well-loved resort became luxury and beyond my price range, so I moved to diving from a boat. This eventually enabled me to gain an understanding of local island life, and develop love and appreciation for the country, its people, culture, and traditions – and start Secret Paradise.
What experiential travel opportunities does Secret Paradise facilitate for youth?
Educational travel is no longer just about providing insight into another culture or country; there must be a purpose from which both the traveller and the local community and environment benefit in a positive way.
Young visitors can get involved in our conservation programmes. Also, we have developed an island-hopping tour that incorporates a mini volunteer programme, so that travellers who want to contribute to the environment, but have little time, can still do that.
We promote and support guesthouses, dive centres, and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Secret Paradise tours are designed for guests to engage with local people. All of our guides are Maldivian.
Is travel to the Maldives sustainable?
Secret Paradise took the initiative to develop and champion a unique product in the Maldives, bringing together locals and tourists in a mutually beneficial concept, with passion, enthusiasm and determination. Responsible tourism is central to what we do. We are mindful that we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs. Through education of both guests and locals, we aim to protect the environment and limit wherever possible any negative impact to local life.
How do you educate visitors about responsible tourism in practice?
All visitors taking part in our ocean-based activities, like swimming and snorkelling, are briefed using the Green Fins Guidelines on how to be responsible in the water. We regularly support clean-up events and last year we launched #strawwarmv, to encourage our partners to ditch plastic straws. We have also pledged our support to #protectmaldivesseagrass. We seek ways to allow Maldives-based organisations, NGOs and marine-life charities the opportunity to interact with visitors, and in so doing, increase their exposure to a wider audience.
Secret Paradise has become the go-to local island expert, leading in sustainable and responsible tourism in the Maldives. We participate in tourism sustainability forums and provide DMC services for a number of the leading adventure operators.
Can you let us in on any secrets or future plans for Secret Paradise?
While there are a handful of volunteer programmes in the Maldives, it is not a destination that comes to mind immediately for youth travel. We’d like to change that. Probably one of our biggest challenges, as well as our greatest achievement, has been growing brand awareness; we are promoting a brand that specialises in a travel product that not many people know about. That requires educating both the consumer and the industry through various channels. The Maldives has so much more to offer than the luxury resort holidays for which it has been known and we believe WYSE Travel Confederation can help us to elevate awareness. We also believe that we can benefit from the knowledge and insights the WYSE Travel Confederation community offers.
Since 2012 Secret Paradise has provided a range of unique local island multi tours and holidays as well as day excursions and guesthouse accommodation options. All combine the beauty of the Maldives, with activities and cultural engagement.
Their tours are designed so that guests not only experience the natural beauty and participate in activities commonly associated with the Maldives, but that they have the opportunity to learn about its people and culture first hand.
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Associate Member
Join WYSE Travel Confederation
If you’d like to join WYSE Travel Confederation and benefit from new connections, free access to industry research, informative webinar sessions, discounts on industry events and brand exposure within the youth and student travel industry, click below to view our membership options and find out more.