Maldives okays 27 new foreign investments in tourism

Maldives has approved 27 new foreign investments in tourism in the past eight months, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced Monday.

Speaking at a function held Monday evening to unveil the framework of a new tourism master plan, President Solih said 28 separate investors have expressed interest in undertaking projects in the Maldives. Twenty-seven of these have already been approved by the government, he added.

“… investors are now anticipating a period of political stability for the future in which the Maldives will honour our contractual obligations,” the president said.

Remarking on the importance of working alongside the private sector, the president highlighted the need to reduce several of the logistical impediments to businesses interested in working in the tourism sector, to further progress the industry. He reiterated that his administration is committed to working hand in hand with private industries to address such obstacles and enhance the ease of doing business within the tourism industry.

President Solih also expressed his satisfaction at the pace of progress of this important industry, which is the mainstay of the Maldivian economy. He referenced statistics indicating that tourist arrivals have increased by 18.7 per cent in the past six months alone.

The president’s comments come weeks after real estate consultancy firm JLL projected that the Maldives’ hospitality industry was on course to see its most active year with more than USD 450 million worth of resort transactions either completed or under offer.

Official figures show that 144 resorts, 12 hotels, 508 guesthouses and 148 liveaboard vessels are currently registered in the Maldives. The number of registered travel agencies and dive schools stand at 308 and 272 respectively.

Government had earlier said that a total of 132 tourism projects involving 140 islands are underway across the Maldives.

The new government had also ramped up tourism promotion with new initiatives and more funding.

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 demand with a rapid increase in 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 in operation to more than 130. That number is set to increase as another 20 resorts are expected to open over the next two years.

Singapore’s Park Hotel Group has opened its first resort in the Maldives, while major international hotel chains such as AccorHotels have entered the Maldives with four openings, including Mercure Maldives Kooddoo ResortFairmont Maldives Sirru Fen FushiMӧvenpick Resort Kuredhivaru Maldives and Raffles Maldives Meradhoo as well as two in the pipeline. Brands like Hard Rock InternationalCapella Hotel GroupCarlson Rezidor Hotel GroupEmaar Hospitality GroupBaglioni HotelsEmerald Collection and Meliá Hotels International have announced their entry to the Maldives as well.

Existing international players are also upping their presence, with Marriott International launching Westin and JW Marriott in Maldives, Hilton Worldwide re-introducing its top-end luxury brand Waldorf Astoria, Aitken Spence introducing its Heritance brand, Minor Hotel Group introducing its AVANI brand, Onyx Hospitality Group introducing its OZO brand with its second property in the island nation, and LUX* Hotels & Resorts opening its second resort in the Maldives. Centara Hotels and Resorts has also signed a management agreement for its third resort in the tropical destination, while The Residence by Cenizaro has announced the launch of its second Maldivian property.

Leading local hotel groups, including Atmosphere Hotels and ResortsSun Siyam Resorts, and Crown and Champa Resorts, are also on an expansion drive.

Meanwhile, the first integrated tourism developments in the Maldives — Emboodhoo Lagoon project and Rah Falhu Huraa lagoon project — are underway.

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 400 guesthouses in operation today.

Maldives welcomed a record 1.4 million tourists in 2018 — a 6.8 per cent increase from the 1,389,542 tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2017. Other factors such as average duration of stay, bed nights and occupancy also posted positive growth in 2018.

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