Officials, stakeholders come together to explore sustainable development of Maldives guesthouse sector

Officials and industry stakeholders came together on Saturday to discuss ways to develop the guesthouse industry in Maldives, as the government hosted the first ever national level gathering targeted towards the booming sector.

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.

Themed as ‘Towards Sustainable Tourism’, the symposium saw four separate sessions, with the first being on the legal framework governing the operation of guesthouses. The second session focused on the relationship between tourism and local communities, whilst the third session explored destination marketing strategies for the guesthouse industry. The final session collected the experiences of guesthouse owners and operators.

Group discussions were also held during the symposium, where participants held discussions on three key topics: sustainable development of the guesthouse industry, development of support infrastructure, and marketing of guesthouses and related products.

Tourism minister Ali Waheed told journalists that the government had learned the challenges facing the industry. The concerns expressed by guesthouse owners and operators will be incorporated in the new strategic masterplan for tourism, which will be initiated within the first 100 days of the new government, he added.

“We will listen to the people. I’m thrilled to seen the high turnout for the symposium, especially during the peak tourist season. This shows the high expectations of the people,” the minister said.

Waheed stressed that tax laws need to be amended in order to boost local tourism. Decentralisation is also key to the development of the guesthouse industry, he said.

The symposium will wrap up at 8.30pm with a special function attended by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

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.

Maldives, known world over for its upmarket tourism industry, has resorts in the hundreds spread across the archipelago. The industry has in recent years expanded to introduce more affordable segments, including guesthouses and liveaboards. Some 500 guesthouses have started operations over the past five years as the number of travellers that choose to stay in guesthouses rise.

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