Industry leaders call for united destination marketing effort to sustain Maldives tourism growth

Leading players in Maldives tourism on Monday called for a united front to promote the destination, as members of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) gathered for the industry body’s annual general meeting.

Tourism pioneer Mohamed Umar Maniku, who serves as the chairman of the association, highlighted the rapid expansion of the industry. Destination marketing is vital to sustain the industry’s growth, he said.

“Last year was a good year for the industry. This year looks promising too,” Maniku said.

The owner of Universal, which owns and operates eight resorts across the Maldives, hailed the ongoing development of the country’s main Velana International Airport.

In addition to minor improvements, a USD 800 million mega project has been launched to expand and upgrade the main Velana International Airport. The project involves building a brand new runway, an international passenger terminal and a seaplane terminal as well as other support facilities, including a fuel farm that can store 45 million litres and a 120,000 tonne cargo facility.

The airport is a key infrastructure that supports the Maldives multi-billion dollar tourism industry. Expansion of the airport is expected to boost tourist arrivals to the island nation as it aims to attract at least two million tourists by 2020.

Maldives concluded last year with 1.39 million tourists — an eight percent growth over 2016.

After years of double-digit growth in tourism, the Maldives has over the recent years observed a slowdown in growth. The government has set an ambitious target of attracting 1.5 million tourists by the end of this year, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.

Over the past five 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 120. That number is set to increase as the government has announced the opening of some 20 new resorts 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 450 guesthouses in operation today.

The government has recently 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.

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