CROSSROADS; an epoch of midscale tourism in the Maldives
The development of the Emboodhoo Lagoon multi-island integrated resort project, known as “CROSSROADS”, is the most comprehensive and expansive tourism project undertaken in the Maldives, ushering in a new wave of investment opportunities.
The project, a game-changer that will transform the face of the Greater Malé Region and expand Maldives’ appeal as a multifaceted tourism destination, is managed by Singha Estate PLC – a renowned Thailand-based real estate developer.
CROSSROADS, depicted as “where cultures meet”, originates from the fact that the Maldives is strategically located on the Maritime Silk Road bridging the East and the West, a destination where various cultures had crossed paths and interacted with one another in the past.CROSSROADS will further enhance this experience where the designer, Bill Bensley, incorporated numerous eastern and western impressions into the project. The Township; the entertainment island and Transient Resort are being designed by Bill Bensley along with HBA, SCDA and EcoId behind the designs of other islands.Emboodhoo Lagoon: CROSSROADS is seven kilometres in length, and composed of nine reclaimed islands. The magnitude of the project proved to be a challenge within the seven months of the operation and reclamation was completed within the time frame as a result of cooperative communication between the developer, dredging companies, Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Government.
The total investment cost for phase 1 which consists of the Township and three hotels totals US$311 million, while the total project cost for both Phase One and Two is US$696 million.
What CROSSROADS entails
Located just a 15-minute speedboat ride away from Velana International Airport, Emboodhoo Lagoon is just 8 kilometres away from Malé City. CROSSROADS will consist of separate resorts with their own guest arrival jetties and inter-island water transportation, the Township; an entertainment Island composed of more than 60 different retail and Food & Beverage outlets, a cultural centre that showcases the beauty of Maldives and certain art and craft offerings that would support local artists and a marine life centre where knowledge of coral preservation and habitation is provided.
The “Underwater Sculpture”, a display of various unique sculptures that will enhance the design concept of the resort, where snorkelers and divers can enjoy swimming through or perform under water, will be incorporated into the Upscale Lifestyle Resort.The project is divided into three phases and in Phase One, the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives (Family Theme Resort) will have 178 keys, Curio by Hilton will have 198 keys and the Upscale Lifestyle Resort (5 stars) will have 120 keys. Hard Rock Resort will cater to the family market who wish to spend their vacation in the first theme-resort in the Maldives.Aside from the Hard Rock Hotel Maldives, the CROSSROADS project will feature various other International hotel brands as well. The Curio by Hilton will cater to vibrant adventurous individuals who enjoy being close to the entertainment island and being able to easily retreat to their rooms.
The Upscale Lifestyle Resort offers luxury offerings for couples who wish to be secluded but at the same time are able to enjoy the facilities at the Township.
Social and economic possibilities
The proximity of CROSSROADS to the hub of the nation reduces the total cost of travel for tourists with the elimination of seaplane transfers and the logistical cost of transporting significantly, enabling hotels to provide more affordable room rates. Scheduled ferry services from the airport and Malé City will provide access to the destination for tourist and local visitors, while chartered speedboat services will also be available.With retail outlets, entertainment facilities, restaurants, a Duty Free, a cultural centre, a marine life centre, a multipurpose hall, a marina, a beach club, a kids club and a Wellness Centre, CROSSROADS will provide the local community with quality shopping and recreational activities, enabling the midscale market to have more options within the country itself.Guests, themselves, can enjoy the conveniences of having access to products and services they usually enjoy back home. CROSSROADS retails will feature Health & Wellness, Food & Beverage – the brands include Crepes & Co, and fashion stores such as Puma and Crocs.
From an economic perspective, the project will provide over 5000 employment opportunities and approximately 1200 keys which will supplement the Government’s initiatives on transformation to open up tourism to a larger market.
“The Emboodhoo Lagoon project shows the interest of top international brands and companies to invest in the Maldives,” said Mohamed Saeed, Minister of Economic Development, speaking about the investment opportunities available in the Maldives. Moosa Zameer, the Minister of Tourism, echoed Saeed’s remarks.
He said: “The Emboodhoo Lagoon project is just one of such investment opportunities on offer in the Maldives. It is a testament to the confidence investors have in projects in the Maldives.”The Investment Retail Opportunity event held by Singha Estate in January proved to be a success with numerous Maldivian investors showing interest in the international brands showcased at the venue. The brand offerings in the Entertainment Island will elevate the retail experience for locals and enable international chains to establish a market within the Maldives.“There are many investment opportunities available for local businesses ranging from Food & Beverage, retail, service, art and crafts, etc. These opportunities will enhance the tourism sector by providing variety to tourists,” says Thiti Thongbenjamas, the Chief Investment Officer of Singha Estate.
“The CROSSROADS project by Singha Estate is a mega project that has all the ingredients to be a super success. Singha has always been associated with excellence in quality and we have no doubts that CROSSROADS will change the outlook for the Maldives for the better,” says Anchit Sachdev, Director of Dressed, a healthy fast-casual dining concept from Thailand.
“Dressed is already partnering with Singha Estate in their project in the heart of downtown Bangkok and looking forward to the launch in the late Q2 or beginning of Q3/2018. Dressed is excited to take our association to the next phase with the ambitious CROSSROADS project.”
Concerns and Prudence
“Singha Estate has worked very closely with marine biologists since the conception of the project to ensure that the megadevelopment promotes the Maldives’ pristine natural environment.” says Thongbenjamas.The natural surroundings of Emboodhoo Lagoon were closely monitored prior to and during construction, and upon discovery of a diverse coral reef and the inhabiting sea turtles on one end of the Township Island, the project was immediately halted and the construction plan redrawn to shift the Township development to the opposite side of the island.In order to prevent any possible leaks of construction toxins into the sea water, the majority of wet work (i.e. concrete mixing), was carried out outside of the Maldives, and prefabricated parts were then transported to be assembled at CROSSROADS.
Additionally, Singha Estate is taking a proactive step to launch a coral propagation programme, to promote marine biodiversity in areas surrounding the integrated resort. It is also setting up ‘SeaFari’, a Marine Discovery Centre that is introducing global marine biologists’ practices for the conservation of the Maldives’ marine environment.With regard to safety concerns about high-rises being built on the reclaimed land, CROSSROADS is ensuring that all the structures on the Township Island are built no taller than local coconut trees. “Safety is our primary concern and we ensure that the statutory and hotel standard requirements are followed every step of the way.“We worked closely with consultants to ensure that all the designs followed the statutory requirements,” Thongbenjamas adds.
Foresight and the prospective future
CROSSROADS is a multi-island integrated leisure and recreation destination that will cater to a variety of market spectrums ranging from family to adventurous individuals who are looking for unique experiences that the Maldives has to offer.
“Now that land reclamation is completed, we are working on the construction phase for both front and back of the house. And we are planning to welcome guests by the end of this year,” says Thongbenjamas.
With the airport expansion, affordable hotel offerings, the exhibition of the Maldivian marine environment and additional entertainment offerings, the family and mid-scale offerings will unquestionably expand, which will contribute to the country’s growth and the accessibility to its tourism sector for a larger scale of Maldivian residents and foreign guests.