SATA looks to host annual gala in Maldives south

South Asian Travel Awards (SATA) have announced plans to host its gala in the southern Maldivian atoll of Addu, in an effort to further boost tourism in the Maldives south.

This year’s edition of SATA will take place in October.

Ismail Hameed, Director of organiser Highrise, said the SATA Secretariat is currently assessing the viability and feasibility of holding the gala in Addu. However, it can only be confirmed based on the support and feedback received, he added.

“SriLankan Airlines has already pledged its support in arranging transport for attendees. But we can only confirm based on the support we receive in other logistical arrangements. For that, we have requested for an appointment with the tourism minister as well,” Ismail said.

Sri Lanka’s flagship carrier currently operates four weekly flights to the Gan International Airport in Addu from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.

Direct flights to Addu by a major international airline has boosted tourism in the south.

Despite several new resort developments and a boom in guesthouse tourism in the Maldives, Addu as a whole has lagged behind for years in attracting tourism-related investments. The relatively large atoll, which has unique geographical features compared to other parts of the island nation, is home to only two of the some 120 tourist resorts in the Maldives; Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, and Canareef Resort Maldives.

Government has, however, recently launched a project to develop 3,000 beds in Addu to cater to backpackers and budget travellers.

More than 414 nominations from the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal have been received for the 39 categories included in this year’s edition of SATA. Online voting is ongoing, and will complement the judging by a panel of experts.

SATA has recently announced the first batch of partners for this year’s edition, with Maldives Insider being named an official travel media partner.

Launched last year by Maldives-based event management company Highrise, SATA has been endorsed by regional tourism authorities and organisations, including the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Sri Lanka (FCCISL), Colombo Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), Confederation of Associated Tour Operators (India), Association of Travel Agents (ATA) Maldives, Association of Travel and Tour Operators India (ATTOI), Association of Professionals in Tourism (APT, India), Kerala Hotel General Managers Club (KHGMC), Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and Liveaboard Association of Maldives (LAM).

SATA is the first ever regional travel awards endorsed by multi national associations, providing the tourism sector of the South Asian region with recognition towards their facilities and service excellence. It aims to encourage and raise service standards in the region’s tourism industry.

The awards’ first edition, which wrapped up with a gala ceremony at the iconic Mount Lavinia Hotel in Sri Lanka, saw an overwhelming support with more than 260 nominations. Major travel media organisations, including Maldives Insider, Asian Traveller, Asian Geographic, Asian Diver and Floating Asia were appointed as media partners of SATA 2016.

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