Maldives unveils framework for new sustainability-focused tourism master plan

Maldives on Monday unveiled a framework of a new tourism master plan in a bid to promote sustainable development in the country’s main economic sector.

At a ceremony held at the main convention centre of Dharubaaruge in capital Male Monday evening, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih unveiled the framework of the Fifth Tourism Master Plan.

The president told the attendees, which included Vice President Faisal Naseem, Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, tourism minister Ali Waheed as well as a number of tourism tycoons, that this plan would allow for an equitable distribution of tourism projects throughout all of the Maldives’ atolls, so that communities across the entire breadth of the country will have access to its benefits.

The framework, which calls for consultations amongst relevant authorities and industry stakeholders, emphasises sustainable development of tourism in the Maldives for the 2020-2025 period. It covers nine major areas:

  • Identifying ways to develop and expand the tourism industry
  • Expanding the role of women in the tourism industry
  • Promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, environmental conservation and use of renewable energy across the tourism industry
  • Strengthening the legal framework governing the tourism industry
  • Identifying the steps to be taken to ensure the safety and security of tourists
  • Conducting research to identify ways to retain revenue generated from tourism in the Maldives and taking necessary
  • Identifying ways to conserve the Maldives’ heritage and culture through the expansion and promotion of tourism
  • Increasing job opportunities for locals in the tourism industry and identifying the human resources needs of the industry
  • Identifying ways to promote and market the Maldives’ tourism

The latest iteration of the tourism master plan was inaugurated in 2013 and covered the nation’s tourism policy until the end of 2017.

The Fourth Tourism Master Plan targeted infrastructure development and creation of special zones for tourism development. Under the plan, new resorts and guesthouses came into operation, with over 45,000 tourist beds currently in operation across the Maldives.

Maldives welcomed a record 1.4 million tourists in 2018. It was a 6.8 per cent increase from the 1,389,542 tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2017.

Meanwhile, government has revised its forecast for the number of tourists visiting the island nation this year, increasing the estimate to a record 1.6 million from 1.5 million.

According to the latest figures, total arrivals for the first six months of this year increased by 18.7 per cent to reach 862,589 compared to the 726,515 in the same period last year.

This positive growth in the tourism industry comes amidst concerns by 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 announced 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.

Meanwhile, 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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