Maldives new govt pledges threefold hike in tourism promotion budget

New government of Maldives has pledged to ramp up tourism promotion in its first 100 days with a threefold increase in marketing budget for the tourism ministry.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was sworn in on Saturday, had listed in his manifesto for the first 100 days two pledges for the tourism industry. Amongst the two, a minimum threefold increase in tourism marketing budget will be achieved within the first 90 days in office, in a bid to strengthen efforts to promote the country’s main economic sector.

Reflecting the new government’s pledge, the proposed 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.

The budget is being evaluated by the parliament.

As the second initiative for tourism in the new government’s first 100 days manifesto, a guesthouse symposium will be held within the first 30 days in office.

Meanwhile, former parliamentarian Ali Waheed has been appointed as the new Minister of Tourism.

Authorities have come under fire from private organisations representing industry stakeholders such as the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) over the lack of effort and budget to promote the Maldives as a destination.

These concerns come as the world-famous holiday destination struggles to match an increased bed capacity.

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 to more than 130. That number is set to increase as another 20 resorts are expected to open over the next two years.

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 has 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.

Maldives had in September welcomed the one millionth visitor of 2018.

According to the latest figures, total arrivals for the past nine months of the year increased by 8.3 percent to reach 1,080,459 compared to the 998,009 in the same period of last year.

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