To enhance our ability to support community and environmental objectives

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To enhance our ability to support community and environmental objectives

Maldives
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Please see above for full details of our program. In short, the internationally-recognized Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab is part of a larger Corporate Social Responsibility program conducted by the Banyan Tree head office. The Marine Lab acts as the facilitator of education, humanitarian/social, and environmental programs throughout the Maldives, conducting active research in 3 of 26 atolls in the Maldives, with occasional research in a further 3 atolls. The flagship Marine Lab at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru also acts as the catalyst for opening future Marine Labs in the Maldives (at present, one more Marine Lab at Angsana Resort & Spa Velavaru) and conducting research and conservation programs throughout the Maldives.

Your idea
This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.
Street Address

Buruzu Magu

City

Male'

State/Province

Male'

Postal/Zip Code

20092

Country
Year innovation began

2001

Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality and distinctiveness of the destination

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Indicate sector in which you principally work

Tourism-related business

Geographic location

Rural, Coast.

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions
Main barrier addressed

Lack of collaboration

Main insight addressed

Education through hands-on experience

Innovation
What is the goal of your innovation?

The Banyan Tree has sought to better harness our core competencies to enhance our ability to support community and environmental objectives.

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

The National Geographic Society defines geotourism as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.”

The Banyan Tree has been environmentally- and culturally-minded in the development of its resorts and Corporate Social Responsibility programs from the initial planning stages of each location housing a Banyan Tree or Angsana Resort & Spa. In the Maldives, nearly 90% of all employees are Maldivian and the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab is no exception: with 4 Maldivian associates and 1 foreign Marine Biologist. The Marine Lab actively works to protect, conserve, conduct research within, and educate about the coral reef environments surrounding Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru. The same holds true for the new Marine Lab at Angsana Resort & Spa Velavaru (at present, 1 Maldivian Marine Environment Officer and 1 foreign Marine Biologist). Nearly all the associates of Banyan Tree Maldives Madivaru are Maldivian and Madivaru was the first tented villa resort in the Maldives. Each villa was sited to minimally disturb local trees and no large trees were disturbed in the creation of the tented villas. All trees that did require moving to accommodate each tented villa were replanted closer to the beach. In other words, environmental stewardship has been at the forefront of all Banyan Tree activities in the Maldives and worldwide.

The Banyan Tree began planting trees throughout the Maldives in 2007 and plans to plant 8,000 trees in 2008 throughout the Maldives, with the first trees already being planted for Earth Day 2008 in Veymandoo Island. The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab has removed nearly 2,000 kg of rubbish from local island reefs in the Maldives.
Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab was the first entity to raise endangered green sea turtles from hatchlings, then tag and release them back into the wild.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab has always been about innovation. It was the first resort based Marine Lab in the Maldives and has always conducted practical marine conservation and research. We employ five full-time associates including a trained marine biologist. The activities of the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab are multifold: we have education, health, and environmental projects. We remain one of the only marine labs in the Maldives and one of the only to employ a trained marine biologist.

We have active ties with the Maldivian government and have collaborated on many projects over the years. When the Maldives were facing a crisis of fish dying by the thousands in late 2007, Banyan Tree brought an internationally-recognized expert in algal-bloom-induced fish mortality to the Maldives to work in collaboration with the Maldivian government and the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab. Our activities have won the President of the Maldives Green Resort Award 3 times (Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru in 2002 and Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru in 2004 and 2006). In fact, the government passed a decree in 2007 that all resorts must now employ a marine environment officer to interact with guests and teach them about the importance of protecting the marine environment. This is an approach pioneered by the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab and at least one Maldivian marine environment officer has been present at the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab since its inception.

Our flagship Marine Lab has many coral reef conservation projects on the islands of Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru in North Malé Atoll, as well as conducting research on nearby offshore reefs. Our main conservation projects include coral reef regeneration (through regrowing broken fragments of corals on 3 Electric Reef projects and 15 coral gardens), sea turtle conservation, beach erosion monitoring and prevention, and active research programs coordinated.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab has already begun a formal institutional partnership with the University of Guam Marine Laboratory and Dr. Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University in Australia, as well as discussions about formal partnerships with other Universities and scientists in Europe. The Maldives is over 1,000 km long and as such, one or two Marine Labs are insufficient for monitoring the health and recovery of coral reefs throughout the Maldives. Due to this, the Banyan Tree Marine Labs have been actively engaging other resorts in the Maldives and collaborating on several research projects with Marine Biologists at other resorts. Also, the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab at Vabbinfaru would like to continue fostering its relationship with the Maldivian government’s Marine Research Centre, which plans to build a research vessel for fisheries-related work. When such a vessel is built, the Banyan Tree Marine Labs hope to conduct ship-based coral reef researches.

Impact
In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

We seek to be agents of social and economic development in less developed areas by embracing the environment and empowering people.

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

The success of Banyan Tree is exemplified by the rapid growth of the company over the last decade and the even more-rapid growth of the company over the next three years. This amazing growth has proven that a company can be environmentally- and socially-minded in all aspects of its operations and still succeed. In fact, we receive weekly comments from guests that they have chosen to stay at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru because the property is environmentally focused. Furthermore, the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab hosts several long-term repeat guests that have not only contributed financially to the initiatives of the Marine Lab, but have been actively involved in all of our conservation and research projects to date! While succeeding with guests is extremely important, we are even more proud of our successes within the local host community. While we have already outlined our many projects earlier, we measure success of these projects by actively following through and engaging local stakeholders to continue with our community projects after we have left. We also return to the local communities for all projects on a regular basis to gauge the ongoing success of our work. Community stakeholders are engaged from the planning stages of all community projects and it is through them that we gauge our success. In other words, if the community actively tells us that our project has benefited their lives, we consider it a success. Furthermore, we consider success as the continuation of projects by the host community after our Initial presence may have been reduced.

Our environmental conservation programs are rigorously assessed scientifically by our staff Marine Biologists, often in collaboration with international scientific experts for the fields in question. Our dedication to environmental success can be exemplified by Banyan Tree investing in the satellite tracking of 2 sea turtles out of the first batch of turtles we had.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab conducts marine classes on environmental conservation 7 times a week in 3 languages at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru, Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru, and Angsana Resort & Spa Velavaru. In addition, the Marine Lab engages travelers in guided snorkeling around our house reef environments. We showcase our environmental project, all of which contribute towards enhancement of our island locales. All guests can borrow snorkeling equipment free of charge, with information on our house reefs readily available in both handouts for guests upon check-in and through engagement with Marine Lab team.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

Besides performing coral reef conservation activities at Banyan Tree’s and Angsana Resort & Spa’s resort islands, all resorts have actively engaged locals in our environmental activities. Local associates actively participate in monthly reef cleanings and our resorts have even brought associates to local islands in order to conduct reef cleanings, removing nearly 2,000 kg of rubbish from local island reefs. Our resorts also have many community programs, from planting trees on local islands (over 1,000 to date in the Maldives and another 8,000 planned for 2008), building a pre-school on a local island (Feydhoo Island, Shaviyani Atoll), rebuilding an island decimated by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami (Naalaafushi Island), supporting very poor students in a Seedling Program in Malé, holding lectures in local schools throughout the Maldives and bringing students from Malé to our resorts to participate in environmental projects.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

All guests of Banyan Trees and Angsasa Resorts & Spas can contribute opt out contribution called the Green Imperative Fund. All guest contributions are matched by the Banyan Tree and fund worthy environmental and community based projects. It is through the CSR program that the Banyan Tree conducts all of its environmental, social/humanitarian, and health initiatives outlined above. The associates of the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab actively tell guests that attend our marine classes that even if they don’t choose a Banyan Tree or Angsana Resort & Spa for their future holiday choices, by choosing an environmentally-friendly hotel they can go a long way towards acting responsibly in all of their future travel and life decisions. The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab produces a quarterly electronic newsletter on our conservation initiatives and distributes this newsletter to resort guests and visitors, including international journalists, tour operators, and artists.

Sustainability
Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab is a money-losing operation, in that it is not a moneymaking branch of the Banyan Tree or Angsana Resort & Spa. It is a serious operation conducting serious conservation, research, and community outreach programs. That said, it is part of a larger Corporate Social Responsibility program that is at the very foundation of all Banyan Tree and Angsana Resorts and Spas, proving that environmental and social activism can prove to be a viable business model. Banyan Tree and Angsana Resorts & Spas are opening at a rapid pace throughout the world and it is the intention of the Banyan Tree to conduct the same type of environmental and cultural stewardship at all of its resorts that is exemplified by the Banyan Tree and Angsana Resorts & Spas in the Maldives.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab at Vabbinfaru and Ihuru islands covers approximately 15% of its budget through paid guest activities, with a further 10-13% of its budget and activities augmented through guest donations and contributions. The remainder of its funding comes from the Banyan Tree corporate headquarters’ Corporate Social Responsibility program. The Angsana Resort & Spa Velavaru Marine Lab covers nearly its entire budget through paid guest activities, in part because Velavaru’s reef is much larger, requiring more expensive boat trips for guided snorkeling activities, whereas snorkeling on our house reefs is easily accessible at Vabbinfaru and Ihuru islands. Also, Velavaru’s Marine Lab has only 2 full time associates, whereas the flagship Marine Lab at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru has five full-time associates, including our Director of Conservation. Monthly reef cleanings regularly employ up to 30 volunteer associates, including resort guests.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

Banyan Tree is exploring a US$2,000,000 investment to establish a dedicated Marine Research Field Station in the Maldives if an ideal location can be identified with the help of partners such s the Maldivian government.

However, in the meantime, the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab is in the initial stages of developing a Maldives Marine Census by 2010 to catalog all marine research conducted in the Maldives and a checklist of marine flora and fauna for the Maldives in high resolution. As part of this initiative, the Marine Lab aims to conduct research across a broad range of atolls in the Maldives (sampling over 800 km in latitude) with a team of international scientists.

The Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab aims to further develop institutional partnerships with Universities worldwide and to help coordinate marine research at all of the coastal Banyan Tree and Angsana Resorts & Spas worldwide.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

The main barrier to managing, implementing, or replicating our work has been space. At present, our Marine Labs in the Maldives are attached to Banyan Trees and Angsana Resorts & Spas. Therefore, the conservation, education, humanitarian/social, and health initiatives and programs of the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Labs must compete with interactions and education of resort guests and other resort buildings. While Banyan Tree would always keep the present Marine Labs to facilitate environmental education and stewardship of resort reefs and resort guests, we are also exploring the establishment of a larger, non-resort facility to expand the environmental conservation, research, and education efforts.

The origin of our innovation started with the first Banyan Tree Property, created in Phuket, Thailand in 1989 at the site of a former tin-mining operation. The land had been so ravaged with chemicals and open strip-mining pits and sink holes that in 1977 the United Nations Development Programme declared the site as toxic, and a Tousim Authority of Thailand also declared the site unsuitable to support sustainable development. In spite of this, Banyan Tree's founders opted to invest in rehabilitating the site by importing fresh topsoil and cleansing the acidic inland lagoons., with the end result being a lush tropical garden hosting migratory wildlife as well as supporting a thriving tourism industry with Asia's first integrated resort boasting 6 hotels and resorts and a golf course. These social and environmental values have continued to manifest themselves through the grow of the company, with every Banyan Tree and Angsana property created.

In 2001, Banyan Tree established the Green Imperative Fund (GIF) that matches donations from guests to promote efforts embracing the environment and empowering people.

For instance, when Banyan Tree Maldives Madivaru was built in Ari Atoll in 2007, it forewent traditional concrete architecture by featuring 6 tented pool villas.

The Story
What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

Mr. Abdul Azeez Abdul Hakeem. Director of Conservation. Created the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab and oversees all environmental and humanitarian projects for all Banyan Tree properties throughout the Maldives. Azeez is actively involved in community development project throughout the Maldives. Azeez’s conservation and humanitarian efforts have won the President of the Maldives Green Resort Award three times (Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru in 2002 and Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru in 2004 and 2006). The efforts of the Marine Lab have been covered by international journalists, including features on French television channels 2 and 5, the BBC (UK) and National Public Radio (NPR, USA).

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Mr. Robert Tomasetti. Marine Lab Manager / Marine Biologist. Oversees the day-to-day operations of the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab and coordinates guest environmental activities on Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru. Robert is also actively involved in collaborations with visiting and prospective scientists, performing collaborative research and is responsible for increasing the research activities of the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab. Robert teaches many of the marine classes at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru. Robert joined the Marine Lab in August 2007, previously coming from Guam, a tropical island in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. Robert holds a B.S. in Zoology with minors in Marine Science and Geography from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, a Graduate Certificate in Maritime History and Archaeology from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and a M.Sc. in Biology from the University of Guam Marine Laboratory.

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

Please see above for full details of our program. In short, the internationally-recognized Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab is part of a larger Corporate Social Responsibility program conducted by the Banyan Tree head office. The Marine Lab acts as the facilitator of education, humanitarian/social, and environmental programs throughout the Maldives, conducting active research in 3 of 26 atolls in the Maldives, with occasional research in a further 3 atolls. The flagship Marine Lab at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru and Angsana Resort & Spa Ihuru also acts as the catalyst for opening future Marine Labs in the Maldives (at present, one more Marine Lab at Angsana Resort & Spa Velavaru) and conducting research and conservation programs throughout the Maldives.