Destination Marketing: Experience The Real Maldives

10 May 2016     |    Ruth Franklin

In an environment famed for its luxury resorts and where Maldives local island tourism was only introduced in 2011, Secret Paradise Maldives took the initiative to develop and champion a product that brings locals and tourists together in a mutually beneficial concept, with passion, enthusiasm and determination.

Secret Paradise Maldives is currently the only Maldives based tour operator offering accompanied local island tours . Whilst businesses new to a market spend marketing budgets on brand awareness, we also wanted to raise awareness of this other side to the Maldives. Therefore our marketing served also to support local island businesses by broadening local tourism awareness and changing the travel industry’s perception of the Maldives.

Since 2012 Secret Paradise Maldives has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Secret Paradise Maldives tours are designed to allow guests to engage with local people as well as experience the best from a paradise known for it’s high end resorts.

Secret Paradise Maldives

Maldivians are known for their friendliness and hospitality and nothing is too much trouble for them. It was through co-founder, Ruth’s own experience of Maldivian hospitality and their eagerness to please that gave rise to the cultural aspects of our tours. This in turn allowed us to engage with local families, communities and businesses.

The basis of our tours has always been to allow guests to learn about the Maldives, its culture, beliefs, and traditions. What better way to do this than to see the country through the eyes of a local and experience daily life. Travelling by public ferry, staying in a guesthouse on a locally inhabited island  all ensure the local community benefit directly from the income gained from tourism. Sharing breakfast with a family in their home, exchanging stories of daily life, relaxing with a coffee in a local café with their local host allows our guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in the real Maldives.

Our journey started in 2012 when the opportunity to relocate to the Maldives arose for founding partner Ruth Franklin. Following 27 years’ service with the retailer British Home Stores, which included management of the BHS flagship store in Oxford Street London, Ruth packed her suitcase, gathered her SCUBA dive gear and headed for a new challenge in the Maldives, a destination she was no stranger to having visited the archipelago on 30 occasions during the preceding 10 years.

Changes in local laws at that time allowed guests the opportunity to stay on locally inhabited islands. Ruth was keen to create an alternative to the exclusive resort style holidays and provide an opportunity for travellers to experience the real Maldives at a more affordable price.  With the support of a local businessman Secret Paradise Maldives was born.


Our most significant achievement in the 3 years that we have been established has been to open people’s eyes to the ‘real Maldives’. Since 1972 the Maldives has been known as a luxury destination, it certainly was not a destination that sprang to mind for tourists who were looking for a cultural experience or to engage with locals other than within the confines of their idyllic holiday island.


The focus of engaging local people and culture in Secret Paradise Maldives tours has been driven by the desire to provide ways to give back to the communities that had previously welcomed our co-founder into their homes and to share their stories, traditions and cultural practices with a wider audience. It has also ensured that Secret Paradise Maldives remains unique amongst the 170 local tour operator businesses in the Maldives.

As a unique operator in the Maldives we are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldives culture and beliefs. We respect the communities who open their homes to our guests. Through education of both guests and locals we strive to protect the environment in which we operate and limit where ever possible any negative impact preserving this country’s unique location for generations to come.

Local island tourism


Local island tourism is now approaching its 5th anniversary. For Secret Paradise our objective remains to keep this cultural and responsible tourism awareness at the forefront of our business model and provide guests unique cultural experiences. We feel strongly that local tourism needs to be carefully monitored and nurtured otherwise there is a risk that the identity of local island communities will be lost.