Centara Hotels begins fifth resort development in Maldives
Leading Thai hospitality group Centara Hotels & Resorts on Tuesday kick-started the development of its fifth resort in Maldives.
Centara on Tuesday contracted state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) to reclaim three islands in a lagoon in Male atoll.
Centara CEO Thirayuth Chirathivat and MTCC CEO Hassan Shah signed the agreement at the Centara Head Office in Thai capital Bangkok.
In a statement, MTCC said 21 hectares of land would be reclaimed from the lagoon. The scope of work also includes shore protection works and the construction of a breakwater, it added.
“… the project is expected to be completed in 300 days,” the statement read.
In its 2018 annual report, Centara said a subsidiary had acquired leasehold rights of a lagoon in the Maldives for Baht 365 million (USD 11.98 million). Plans are underway to develop two upscale resorts, totalling 310 rooms in the first phase, it added.
However, location of the lagoon and other details are yet to be disclosed.
Centara had in 2017 signed a management agreement for its fourth beach resort in Maldives, Centara Grand Muthaafushi Resort & Spa Maldives.
The management agreement was signed with Maldivian companies Muthaafushi Orient Investments Limited and Well Land Investment to manage and operate the new five-star resort in Baa atoll. The new resort was to be opened in 2019.
However, there have been no updates on the progress of the resort since.
Centara already owns and operates two resorts in Maldives: Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa in South Ari Atoll, and Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa in North Male Atoll.
Maldives is set to welcome 20 new resort openings this year.
Eleven new resorts came into operation in 2016, followed by at least 15 new resorts in 2017 and 20 new properties last year.
Over the past few years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers. Several international brands have entered into the market, increasing the number of resorts in operation to more than 140.
Singapore’s Park Hotel Group has opened its first resort in the Maldives, whilst major international hotel chains such as AccorHotels have entered the Maldives with five openings, including Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort, Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, Mӧvenpick Resort Kuredhivaru Maldives, Raffles Maldives Meradhoo Resort, and Pullman Maldives Maamutaa Resort. Brands like Hard Rock International, Capella Hotel Group, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Emaar Hospitality Group, Baglioni Hotels, Emerald Collection and Meliá Hotels International have announced their entry to the Maldives as well.
Existing international players are also upping their presence, with Marriott International launching Westin and JW Marriott in Maldives, Hilton Worldwide re-introducing its top-end luxury brand Waldorf Astoria, Aitken Spence introducing its Heritance brand, Minor Hotel Group to introduce its AVANI brand, Onyx Hospitality Group to introduce its OZO brand with its second property in the island nation, and LUX* Hotels and Resorts opening its second resort in the Maldives. The Residence by Cenizaro has also opened its second Maldivian property.
Meanwhile, the first integrated tourism developments in the Maldives — Emboodhoo Lagoon project and Rah Falhu Huraa lagoon project — are underway, with the first phase of the Crossroads Maldives integrated destination at Emboodhoo Lagoon already open to visitors.
Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 500 guesthouses in operation today.
The previous government had announced new steps to maintain a structured growth in tourism, including a slowdown in leasing islands for resort development and increased marketing efforts in key markets such as China and the Middle East in order to reach an ambitious target of a record 1.5 million tourist arrivals this year.
Meanwhile, the new government has pledged to ramp up tourism promotion.
Reflecting the new government’s pledge, the state budget for 2019 includes MVR 104,200,000 (USD 6.7 million) for tourism promotion, up from MVR 34,733,333 (USD 2.2 million) this year and the previous year.