Unchartered waters

A landmark integrated project that opened last September has altered the Maldivian tourism landscape, but Feizal Samath notes that the pandemic has put a freeze on potential growth

Billed as the first integrated resort in a country traditionally known for its one-resort-per-island tourism product, the Crossroads Maldives opened its first phase last September.

Located in the Kaafu Atoll, the project which will eventually span nine islands is said to be a 20-minute speedboat ride away from Velana International Airport, Malé.

Even with just the first phase completed, the Crossroads Maldives already has a host of offerings: two resorts; a massive leisure, retail, and entertainment space called the Marina @ Crossroads; and spa and wellness centre Lèn Be Well.

Currently, accommodation within the project comprises the 178-key Hard Rock Resorts Maldives and the 198-key SAii Lagoon Maldives. Guests at the two resorts have direct access to The Marina @ Crossroads.

Housed within the 11,000m2 leisure and entertainment zone is a watersports and dive centre, 12 F&B outlets, and the Koimala & Maalimi’s Junior Beach Club and Camp for families. Guests can dock their private vessels at the yacht marina, which has 30 berths.

Other highlights include the Maldives Discovery Centre, where guests can find out about local heritage, and a Marine Discovery Centre.

Sharfraz Fazley, managing director, Viluxur Holidays, who has recommended Crossroads Maldives to clients, said the development has “completely transformed” the Maldives’ tourism product.

From a destination for dive enthusiasts, honeymooners and couples, the Maldives is now a place for families, group travel with friends, and even shopping, shared Fazley.

In fact, the Marina @ Crossroads had not only attracted visitors, but also affluent Maldivians, making it a shopping destination in itself, according to the manager of a DMC, who declined to be named.

It was not all smooth-sailing, however, when the Crossroads Maldives first opened. “It took a little time and (there were) some hiccups… but there has been tremendous interest since then,” said Dharshan Munidasa, owner of three restaurants at the Marina @ Crossroads.

While occupancy at the project’s two resorts was high between December and mid-January, it later fell through to April, shared Munidasa.

Late-January was the point where the potential impact of the pandemic began to sink in worldwide. China, where cases were first reported, was the Maldives’ largest source market between 2015 and 2018.

Nevertheless, Dillip Rajakariar, CEO, Minor Hotels Group – who oversees multiple properties in the Maldives – is confident that the country’s tourism can recover by leveraging on pent-up demand.

Rajakariar cautioned, however, that the industry “(needs) to be prepared for six to 12 months of slow recovery” after borders reopen. He called for more government support for the hospitality sector.

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