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.