SANGU STORIES, The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands

Inspiration of Fari Islands, Maldives

December 10, 2020 Host: Mark Hehir - General Manager Season 1 Episode 1
SANGU STORIES, The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
Inspiration of Fari Islands, Maldives
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to our first podcast,

We are honoured to spend some time with Mr Evan Kwee, the Vice Chairman of Capella Hotel Group & Head of Design and Hospitality at Pontiac Land Group.

In this podcast, we discover what inspired the development of Fari Islands, the selection of the architect and the vision and concepts of The Ritz-Carlton. And also the importance of sustainability, that was well-thought, even from the very beginning of the project. 

Further, the podcast explores how these concepts fit seamlessly to present the Fari Islands archipelago and why The Ritz-Carlton Maldives will redefine the luxury travel segment.
https://fari-islands.com/

For any further information or assistance, please contact Aminath.Haadhee@ritzcarlton.com , Marketing Communications Manager.

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For more information about The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, visit our website

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Mark Hehir :

Today is our first podcast. We are honoured to spend some time with Evan Kwee, who is Vice Chairman of Capella Hotel Group & Head of Design and Hospitality at Pontiac Land Group. Now he's really focusing most of his energy and the team on opening the Maldives' first integrated luxury resort. They're set to open in the second quarter of 2021. A few days ago. I had a chance to catch up with Evan and just ask him a few questions about what inspired him to develop, not one but three stunning resorts in the Maldives. Good afternoon, Evan, you're such a busy man, as I mentioned, I'm so happy to catch a few minutes of your valuable time today. However, as we build-up to the opening of Fari Islands, we just wanted to pause for a moment as it's our first podcast on the Fari Islands and explore where it all started for you in the Maldives. I know Evan, we've spoken a lot about your inspirations, that really inspired me to join. I just want you to share that with our listeners because it is a great story. What really interested me is how and why and what inspired you and your family to develop such an innovative project, such as Fari Islands in the Maldives, not just one resort and then go and take it to an integrated archipelago of three resorts with the Marina and a strong social activation, seems you've had a lot of insights.

Evan Kwee:

Great. I think this whole idea of how the Fari Islands came out was kind of by chance, you know, me and my family, we've loved the Maldives for many years, and we've always wanted to build a hotel there. And so after the few times we've been there for holidays, we would go back and look at these different islands that were for sale, and we go back pretty often. I think it took us over 10 years before we actually found what we wanted, but it was really the realization that after you go back to the Maldives, time, time and time again, that it really actually is a bit boring. Especially if these resorts that you stay on are the older generation where there's not this very comprehensive, diverse array of restaurants and activities, you know? And so it kind of dawned on us that, there's a space in the market for what I want to call the Maldives 2.0, and as I said, serendipitously, we were shown this reef in North Male Atoll. So again, very advantageous in terms of location, where we could actually just craft and write our own script. And we came, we developed this concept that if we were able to build a collection of hotels with complementary designs, complementary brands, whatever it is that it could be quite an interesting concept; which allowed our guests to move between the resorts, patronize that 30-over restaurants that will be available to them post-completion, all the activities for the children, all that kind of activation experiences. And I think that kind of dawned on us; this would be an interesting concept to conceive in the Maldives because this idea of a one Island, one hotel concept, it is romantic and it is what makes the Maldives unique. But I think as the Maldives develops and people are going more frequently, not going for an anniversary or a honeymoon, wherever it is, they need things to do, and they need more stuff, they need more variety of options to sustain their stay. And so, yeah, that's where I kinda think that all this came together and really kind of conceive this idea of the Fari Islands. We were basically buying a reef and not an island. And at that point in time, it was up to really you or how you want it to be, what you want to do. And given the size of this reef, it dawned on me that maybe we should explore building more than one hotel and it's an idea evolved and started really taking steam. It became clear to me. And of course, we don't know if this is gonna work out, we have a hypothesis and masterplan of it, I think we've selected the right and appropriate brands and partners to help us realize this. I think architectural perspective to each hotel offers a different kind of experience, but we believe that this variety, the fact that, guests who come to the Fari, whether you're staying at the Ritz, the Patina, Capella have a plethora of restaurants, 30 different restaurants, highly extensive kids' clubs, the hotels, a Marina village and we just really think that what we're offering at the Fari Islands is the next generation of the Maldives experience, where like I told you before, if you want the private seclusion you had that you have, you can go swimming naked in your pool if you want. But if you're done with that - privacy and seclusion after day two, you can go to the beach club, you can go interact with the people. And that is when, again, the idea of pooling resources, pooling ideas, working together like these are the properties where you can do calendar-of-events, where you're continuously having people coming in and providing experiences, whether they are culinary experiences, music experiences, whatever it may be, intellectual experiences. And that's where I think the scale of a development like this becomes very difficult to compete with if you are a traditional first-generation older kind of 'one hotel in a one on one island' kind of concept. So that's basically where we are today. We are very excited about the property, the first two properties opening, and that's where it all kind of came about where it started from.

Mark Hehir :

Fantastic. Fantastic. Yeah, definitely inspiring considering also that for customers to easily get to from Male, I thought that was also a great selection in finding that lagoon that was accessible. It's a huge plus. When you went through so many architects worldwide to choose from, how did you get to Kerry Hill Architects for The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, and what triggered that partnership? How did you find each other?

Evan Kwee:

Well, I think, Kerry, if you look back on really some of the greatest and best resort architects and designers, Kerry, has to be there, along with a couple others - up there at the top. And then, of course, we've known Kerry and his family for over a long time., and Kerry's son was my sister's classmate in high school in Singapore; So they were close family friends. They've done projects for us at Pontiac land before. And we just honestly love Kerry. He's a great guy, and I think that really the fact that he was in Singapore, has experienced in doing hotels and not having to teach him a new kind of skill in terms of what kind of hotel we want to build. And more importantly, he has an aesthetic; it really fitted what we wanted. We would want to move away from this whole, barefoot luxury, wooden floors creaking, and alang, alang roofs. And, you know, looking out the window panels and seeing gaps between the stuff that, that those days are gone, those are gone. And if you want that, you can go say somewhere else. But I think that we tried to bring was this beautiful, minimal - not minimal, paired-back elegant, timeless kind of aesthetic, that Kerry brings a simplicity design to the Maldives.

Mark Hehir :

Yeah, it seems the partnership between you two have been, with the whole team has been a fabulous, looking from a far coming in new and hearing them speak in the same way, about it towards you in terms of, they've always thought about Maldives, but was looking for, an owner and the investor that had the similar vision. And it seems that to have definitely collided, they were also speaking about the architectural integrity and what the approach that you've taken. So it seems that you've definitely married well,

Evan Kwee:

Well, I think for that, I think for each of the islands, you know, and your island in particular Mark, whether it's you, whether it's The Ritz-Carlton, whether it's Kerry, whether it's us. I think collectively, I think, it's a very strong proposition because we each bring value in our different respective fields. That collectively is very strong, and one thing I must caution you with, Kerry's design is very pure and simple and clean, right. But if you don't have the execution ability to deliver that kind of quality and construction is designed, doesn't look good. Then if we're still a fall apart and you can see every single defect because it's so clean, you know, so it was very critical that we understood the value of Kerry's design, but of course, understanding too, and show that we could actually build it in the middle of nowhere in the Maldives. Right.

Mark Hehir :

Very important, very important. And you've paid a lot of attention to that. I've noticed in choosing who was constructing it, and also the careful selection of a few years of all of the different types of wood and approaches, and even so far as going to build a Villa in Singapore, which I was lucky to visit two years sort of before we even got to construct in the island. I thought that was incredible. The work that you've gone to do that

Evan Kwee:

Well, thank you. I mean, I think, you know, we, as a family, appreciate architecture and design and quality. And we don't do a lot of projects, but the ones that we do, we want to do them well, we want to do them properly. So hotels, long-term investment - the quality of construction, detailing of all the kind of stuff is critical. Right. I think it's important that you spend a lot of time and effort on the front end, planning, procurement design work before you jump into to try and go build a hotel. I'm sure you've seen many experiences where people get carried away with design or whatever it is. They don't focus on execution. And the project becomes a nightmare.

Mark Hehir :

Yeah. A hundred per cent. And, connected to that is sustainability, which seems to be really deep in-consideration during the design process and how those aspects of work through. Was there anything that you would like to highlight about the process that went through? And where we are at today?

Evan Kwee:

Yeah. I mean, I think the Fari for me and my family and the company as a whole, I think it holds true with even the partners we've selected, be it, Ritz-Carlton, the Marriott or, you know, Capella or whatever it that - sustainability in a place that is as beautiful as the Maldives, needs to be top on your priority list. Right. And so to your point on how we want to deliver actually physically deliver these villas and the buildings, it was very important to approach it in a sustainable perspective. And for us, that way was definitely prefab. Prefab requires, it's using sustainable kind of farm to kind of wood versus illegal hardwood that you may find in traditional methodologies, it's much faster and cleaner. So you rely, you're destroying the built environment less, on top of that, you require less labour because it's like Lego as a part of it's like a kit of parts versus having 2000, 3000 workers there, which is unsustainable. You have to feed these people. You've got to build housing for these people. They produce waste - all kinds of stuff. So, you know, I think that the main sustainable approaches for us was really working with this prefab methodology, using BIM technology to design the villas and stuff like that. Of course, solar, if you look on top of on all the villas and most of the public spaces, we have a PV panels and that in a nutshell, you know, drives obviously, creates energy during the daytime, which then basically is used to run the air conditioning, which obviously is quite in high demand in the Maldives during the daytime. Yeah. And then of course, the more the air conditioning system then heats the water supplies. So it's like this continuous cycle of feed exchange and power generation, which nothing new, nothing new, but I think that it's important to harness the power of nature, be it solar, be it tidal or whatever it is. And so I think for me, the big two things with regards to being sustainable, not forcing it down the throats of our guests and saying, don't wash your sheets, or don't do this, don't do that. But I think from a developer's perspective; you create the most unsustainable things during the build phase. I think for us, that was really important too, to really, walk the talk and deliver on that end. And I think it's definitely, during the prefab and the solar kind of power operation.

Mark Hehir :

Very smart in that sense. And I think, and I liked the way that it's incorporated into the luxury feeling of the property. And I think the luxury customer looks for that but doesn't want to pay the price in terms of their experience. So I think definitely in the right way there. Just finally, how do you feel The Ritz-Carlton Maldives will differentiate itself and stand out from the existing luxury resorts in the Maldives?

Evan Kwee:

Yeah, I see, you know, obviously there's two other properties being developed within Fari. And then to that point, they're already resorts opening in the Maldives. But when I look at, when I stepped back, and I look at what has been designed to conceive for the Ritz, it really is like this beautiful gem. And I think that what's going to come across quite clear is not the size of the villa or the bragging this about, you know, whatever is this - it is going to be the quality. It's going to be the quality of the materiality. It's going to be the quality of construction. It's going to the quality of the detailing, the quality of that sleep experience; it's going to be the quality of the servers from the, from The Ritz-Carlton, Ladies and Gentlemen. And I think overall, just the thoughtfulness of how, you know, The Ritz-Carlton, Maldives has been conceived in part of this destination, which I think when you add all these layers together, really differentiates it from most of the competition in the Maldives. And I think that we're excited to see it realizing soon. And I just see it like this little gems, you know, on the water, which is just so pristine.

Mark Hehir :

Definitely, I appreciate and support that one as well. Thank you very much for your time today. I'm sure our listeners will be excited to explore more about Fari Islands soon.