Thiti Thongbenjamas, COO- Crossroads, Maldives, Singha Estate Public Company Limited
Born in Vietnam, raised in Thailand, educated and worked in the US and now back in Thailand overseeing the spectacular project in the Maldives for Singha Estate Public Company Ltd, Thiti Thongbenjamas, recalls that his childhood was surrounded by first hand exposure to Hospitality & Food Industry. Growing up in a family restaurant business gave him an early taste in hospitality.
After finishing his college degree in Architecture and Economic from UC Berkeley in California, Thiti started his career with Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) in San Francisco where he got first hand introduction to managing finance & development in a Hospitality group. After 14 years with them, he was relocated to Phuket, Thailand for hotel opening. Not long after, he decided to join Movenpick with a very clear task in establishing and developing Movenpick Hotels & Resorts in Asia where he spent about 11 years before deciding to take on new challenges and exploring more.
Today, Thiti is overlooking the project – developing the largest integrated recreational and hospitality destination in the Maldives – Crossroads. His passion is Architecture; he has made it not just his profession but an integral part of his daily living. Thiti loves spending his free time in cooking and engaging with his two beautiful children.
Thiti shares some more insights from his journey in this interview below with team ABT.
Do you recall any Architectural Design that made an impact on you?
Space is minute but infinite. I can’t remember the first space but recently being at the rooftop of the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi captured my attention deeply.
“First integrated leisure recreation destination in one of the world’s largest lagoon”, what got you started on this?
Among top destinations with easy access from Asia, Middle East, and Europe such as Phuket and Bali, Maldives is also tank among the top destination. Maldives offers direct flights from many major cities and to name a few, Bangkok, Singapore, Russia, Shanghai and Dubai. Thailand has always enjoyed a close relationship with the Maldives. We share many similarities from the marine biodiversity of the Indian Ocean to the warm hospitality and Maldives has also become one of Thailand’s top holiday destinations and business investments.
Singha Estate Public Company Limited sees a great opportunity in creating the company’s biggest and most exciting project to date in the Maldives. The plan is to promote and ‘redefine’ the Maldives travel experience to captivate the international leisure-travel market and significantly expand the country’s appeal as a multi-faceted world-class destination.
What makes Crossroads different from other projects?
The proximity of Crossroads to the hub of Maldives is the key differentiator. Being 8 kilometers away from the airport, travellers can enjoy the beautiful white sand beach at no time and most importantly does not require additional expenses in sea plane. Crossroads will become a place to be for family and middle-income life-style seeker travellers who want to enjoy what Maldives has to offer at an affordable price. Maldives will no longer be a once in a life time trip but any weekend destination.
The project is the country’s first integrated recreational destination for visitors and local residences in response to the demands of leisure activity and MICE facility offerings filling the gap between medium and upscale, and family and millennials segments.
Tell us about the technical challenges involved in building a property such as Crossroads across 9 islands stretching 7km?
Singha Estate places high importance in protecting the environment surrounding Crossroads project upholding the epitome of “Building Big, Protecting Small”. The natural surroundings of Emboodhoo Lagoon have been closely monitored prior to and during the construction of Crossroads. In fact, due to the 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 mitigate the impact to the ecological surrounding.
In order to prevent any possible leaks of construction toxins into the sea water, the majority of wet work (i.e. concrete mixing), was conducted outside of the Maldives, and pre-fabricated parts are then transported to be assembled at CROSSROADS.
Additionally, Singha Estate is taking a proactive step to launch a coral propagation program, to promote marine biodiversity in areas surrounding the integrated resort. In the heart of the island, ‘Seafari’, a Marine Discovery Center will offer an introduction to the global marine biologists’ practices for the conservation of the Maldives’ marine environment.
What does it take to develop a sustainable property, does it cost more to go green?
For this project, we have incorporated eco-sustainability-focused precautions into the operational process. We will install special equipment for marine biologists to survey the underwater surroundings before and after the shipment and throughout the construction to minimize environmental impact.
Spear-headed to Green Globe Compliance, Crossroads utilizes non-harmful materials. This will be matched by reforestation efforts in designated green areas and ocean care through a coral preservation area.
Domestic plants will be chosen to decorate the islands, with a sustainable focus on composition rather than tree type. Before Crossroads’ own growing grounds are established, the trees will be transplanted from nurseries on a series of nearby growing islands. Treated greywater will be used throughout the mega-project’s gardening process.
And yes it is more expensive to go green but isn’t it the natural beauty of Maldives that we fell in love with? It’s worth any costs to ensure that our next generation can also fall in love with this destination.
Tell us about your recent learning that blew you away
A few weeks ago, CNN did a small clip. It said that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic straws in the ocean than fishes. I was paused.
What can we expect from your team and Singha Estate in the coming years?
Aside from the long (working) hours, Crossroads is the first but definitely not the last. Our plan is to continue to develop more projects that enhance the fundamental needs in our hectic life, happiness and time to be ourselves and our loved ones in a sustainable way.