Maldives seeks record-breaking tourism performance in 2019

Maldives expects to have a record-breaking performance in the tourism industry in 2019, the new government announced Saturday.

During the first ever Maldives Guesthouse Symposium held in the country, tourism minister Ali Waheed told journalists that his ministry was in the process of drafting a new tourism development masterplan. The plan will take into account the concerns and ideas shared by industry stakeholders and professionals, he said.

Minister Waheed highlighted the ministry’s efforts to implement the plan within the first three months of the new government. It will set the future course of action for the guesthouse sector as well as the whole tourism industry, he added.

“We see bright developments in 2019. Our aim is to make it a record-breaking year for the tourism industry,” the minister said.

Held as part of the new government’s first 100-day pledges, the Maldives Guesthouse Symposium 2018 took place at the main convention centre of Dharubaaruge in capital Male. The one-day forum was attended by tourism minister Ali Waheed and top officials of relevant authorities along with representatives from 340 guesthouses located across the Maldives.

The main objective of the symposium is to create a platform for guesthouse operators and relevant government authorities to come together and discuss issues and constraints, providing strategic directions for sustainable development of guesthouse sector, which support environmentally sensitive business operations, whilst protecting the cultural and natural heritage of the island in providing maximum economic and social benefits to the local people.

The symposium recognises the need for sustainable development of the rapidly growing guesthouse sector of the Maldives, as well as the government’s commitment to identify and address issues and challenges faced by guesthouse operators and island communities.

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.

The new government has pledged to ramp up tourism promotion.

Reflecting the new government’s pledge, the 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.

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