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Maldives' First Integrated Leisure and Lifestyle Resort Destination. Exclusive, Christopher Baker

Christopher Baker General Manager Crossroads Maldives
CROSSROADS Maldives is the first multi-island integrated leisure and lifestyle resort destination in the Maldives.

CROSSROADS Maldives is the first multi-island integrated leisure and lifestyle resort destination in the Maldives. Located just a 15-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport, with world renowned brands such as Hard Rock Cafe, Café del Mar and popular food outlets like Ministry of Crab, CROSSROADS is a destination defined as a place “where cultures meet”

We sit with Christopher Baker, the General Manager of CROSSROADS Maldives, who worked with the vision of Singha Estate and S Hotels & Resorts, the project developer in achieving this marvel. The first phase of the mega project which is to be seen today has been talked on every media and has been named as the place to be for local residents, ex-pats, transit visitors and resort guests.

In conversation, we tried to understand how integrated destination has been designed to operate, the essence of CROSSROADS and how it is built to change the face of tourism in the beautiful island nation, Maldives.

Maldives is your ultimate bucket list, with its uniqueness from the little islands. You see these legendary photographs of Maldives and you just want to be here.

Christopher Baker GM, CROSSROADS Maldives

01. CROSSROADS Maldives is known as the first of its kind, an “Integrated Resort Project”. Just to clarify further, what does an Integrated resort mean and how much do you think consumers are familiar with the concept ?

CB: I think people are familiar with the word ‘integrated’, but it all comes to what we do here at CROSSROADS. It isn’t just another resort island. Particularly, the opening of The Marina @ CROSSROADS, the very first integrated leisure complex in the Maldives, enables visitors to a much-fulfilled multiexperience destination, instead of the traditional Maldives ‘one island, one resort’ concept. That is to say, visitors can enjoy a variety of dining, shopping and leisure activity offerings all at once when visiting the CROSSROADS and also experience a fantastic stay at one of our resorts.

02. How is CROSSROADS Maldives different from other related projects you have worked with?

CB: I believe it would be the “sheer scale and the complexity of having different brands together”. It is a first for the Maldives and a first time to me as well.

03. In your opinion, what makes Maldives tourism industry significantly different from rest of the world and why is the destination suitable for a project like CROSSROADS Maldives?

CB: Maldives is your ultimate bucket list with its uniqueness from the little islands. You see these legendary photographs of Maldives and you just want to be here. Of course, tourism has changed now. The airport and flight itinerary are expanding, there’s a lot more people coming in, there’s a lot more businesses coming in. Local tourism has also been picked up.

Maldives has its ideal location, accessible by diversified travelers, which was where our project name CROSSROADS was inspired from. We see a great demand to this destination and an increasing demand from today’s travelers on experiential offerings. With a location just 15 minutes from the airport or Male’, it is an ideal suit to develop an integrated project that opens to new potential market segments.

04. We have been seeing lifestyle ads at the airport inviting guests to come experience CROSSROADS. Is the place completely ready for guests? Can you help us understand the services and features currently available as an integrated resort?

CB: We have recently opened the 1st phase of the CROSSROADS project, which includes The Marina, a multi-experience leisure complex, and two unique resorts, SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives. When you walk around The Marina, you can explore dining facilities including the well-known Hard Rock Cafe and Ministry of Crab, leisure features such as the Marine Discovery Centre, Maldives Discovery Centre and Water-sports and Dive Centre, plus a shopping avenue featuring various retail outlets.

The famous Café del Mar beach club is here for you. What is going to be quite unique is that over the next month or so, you will see many different activities coming in, food market, light show, various music acts and more.

Maldives Largest Integrated Tourist Destination Crossroads

05. What do you think is the most striking thing about Crossroads Maldives?

CB: One of the things we do is to encourage local art crafts. People stay the Maldivian nights, we host the Maldivian days by bringing in the local artists. To me, the beautiful Maldives Discovery Centre is the jewel in the crown. Many tourists come to Maldives but don’t have a chance to receive real interaction with Maldivian culture. We have it all which is an amazing experience for the guests. We want to keep the traditions alive.

06. How are you marketing the concept? Since opened, what are top 05 countries targeted as of now, and in the long run, how is the list going to change and which country will be on the top?

CB: We have various business units within the project which are tapping into different targets. For The Marina, we will never be away from one of our main objects which is to create offerings for locals, whether Maldives or ex-pats living in the Maldives. We also aim to attract transit visitors, a new place to be instead of waiting long hours at airport. Of course, if we are talking about resort statistics, each one has a different mix. This is related to the brand positioning itself and the different services provided on each resort island.

07. Do you think CROSSROADS Maldives is currently getting the attention and support from the local market? Especially brands like Hard Rock has been well known to the capital city Male’. Do you feel like you have that demand from locals?

CB: It is. Hard Rock Cafe is a big draw for a lot of people. Everyone wants to see these legendary burgers that has been spoken about, they want to get these funky milkshakes, enjoy live band music and check out the popular Rock Shop. I think there’s a great potential and demand here from the local market.

We have various business units within the project which are tapping into different targets. For the Marina, we will never be away from one of our main objects which is to create offerings for locals, whether Maldives or expats living in the Maldives. We also aim to attract transit visitors, a new place to be instead of waiting long hours at airport. Of course, if we are talking about resort statistics, each one has a different mix. This is related to the brand positioning itself and the different services provided on each resort island.

Christopher Baker GM, CROSSROADS Maldives

08. In terms of complications, will there be any complications to the environment over the years or due to the formation of a complete island from Lagoon?

CB: Sustainability is essential to the project, which all stakeholders on the project sharing the same vision.

Throughout the design, development, and operation of this project. CROSSROADS Maldives has been working closely with international agencies, relevant local authorities and communities to ensure the sustainability aspect of the project.

The construction of CROSSROADS Maldives strictly followed the protocol of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With determination to support the balance of the environmental, social and the economy of the market in which we operate.

Our top priority is to safeguard the interests of the community and the environment, as well as to promote the well-being of all stakeholders. Moving forward, CROSSROADS Maldives will continue to work closely with relating agencies, environmental councils, and local communities to maintain the nature’s delicate balance and the quality of living for the local people, under stringent transparency as a good example for others to follow.

In practical terms, “building big while protecting the small”.

09. Climate changes are bound to have a major impact on the tourism industry in Maldives. What kind of serious measures do you think needs to be in place?

CB: Our philosophy is “Think globally, act locally.” People have to do that. “I was at a local island in March and we went to a shop to purchase a few things and he gave us a plastic bag to put the items in and I said no, then he said it’s okay, there are already so much plastic here. I said no. This is what it’s about. It’s about an education; a system. “We don’t have single use plastic here.” This is something about thinking globally and acting locally. We have many things in place amongst the resorts. At Hard Rock, when you go in, you get flip-flops and they are biodegradable. What we can do is to start thinking globally and act locally, for instance, stop taking those plastic bags. If everyone does that, it creates a huge impact.

10. How many staff or how large is the operations team at this stage?

CB: In Crossroads, we have almost 700 employees now, and expect to have more team members/ create more job opportunities with upcoming developments.

11. Are you expecting any similar projects anytime soon?

CB: Not anytime soon. A mega project like this takes time for research, planning and deployment, and that is to say you’d need a suitable location, suitable opportunity at suitable time.

12. Do you think CROSSROADS Maldives will actually be a total win over the competition in the Maldives?

CB: We can already see the impact and the demands. Even our event hall has started to pick up a lot quicker. Aside from the business itself, I’d more like to think it as a win-win situation rather than just a win-over.

We have over 60% Maldivian workforce and 18% female and a lot of the females own senior positions which was a set goal to encourage from the beginning. It’s targeted, it’s driven, it’s always going to be there to support the local community.

The article was originally published in FIYA Magazine, Issue 10, Published by MVHOTELS.

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