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South Asian Travel Awards appoints intl jury for nominee evaluations



An international jury has been appointed for the evaluation of nominees for South Asian Travel Awards (SATA) 2019.

The four-member jury comprises:

Amal Goonetilleke

With over three decades of experience in the field of tourism and hospitality, Amal specialises in sales and marketing for hotels and resorts. Presently a marketing consultant for hospitality companies with local and international affiliations, she is well versed in multiple disciplines of sales and marketing across global markets and segments such as corporate, MICE, leisure, and revenue management.

She is recognised as one of the leaders in hospitality focused sales and marketing in her native Sri Lanka. She held the position of Vice President at The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, Vice President at Colombo City Hotels Association and Chairperson at PATA Sri Lanka Chapter, and was a Board Member of the Sri Lanka Promotions Bureau.

In recognition of her contribution to the industry, she was awarded the Zonta Woman of Achievement Award for Tourism in 2009 and Women in Management – Tourism Gold Award in 2015.

Rinku Madan

Rinku recently completed her studies in Global Journalism at Harvard University, with the objective of pursuing her writing skills in the area of global luxury travel. She had earlier studied at the French Culinary Institute in the area of food writing. Having worked with luminaries like Alan Richman and Andrew Fischer, she is amongst the very few certified food writers in India with a global experience.

Her penchant for understanding food and other finer aspects of life commenced more than a decade ago, as the chef at a seven-star members-only restaurant.  This was followed by her stint as the Editor of Times Nightlife Guide. She further honed her journalism skills through weekly columns at The Economic Times and The Sunday Times, and with leading business and general dailies in the Times Group fold and the BBC Good Food Guide. She was also a producer at the CNN International Bureau, New Delhi for a brief period.

Rinku’s experience in writing feature articles on food, restaurants, cuisines and luxury properties enhanced her skills, and enabled her to pursue luxury as a focus area, not only as a writer but also as a food stylist and consultant in the field of food and beverage.

Sangeeta Rana

Sangeeta Rana is the Executive Director of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan. She has several years of experience in the hospitality and tourism industry. She is also the board member of various tourism and private sector development boards such as TDB, CTA, BSTS and HRDB. She is extremely enthusiastic and passionate about developing the tourism industry and to work closely with tourism stakeholders around the world. She represents the exotic country, Bhutan, which believes in “Gross National Happiness”.

Abdulla Suood

With more than 20 years’ experience in sales and marketing, having worked with major hotel chains and establishing his own travel business, Suood stands firm in the travel and hospitality industry as a key voice. He serves as the President of Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO).

Suood has worked with international organisations such as Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in hosting Maldives Travel Conference and Maldives Travel Awards annually. He is also amongst the co- founders of SME & Entrepreneurs Federation of Maldives (SEFM).

Members of the multi-national panel will be travelling to multiple cities in the region and evaluating properties and services. During the evaluation, each property has to do a presentation of 10 minutes before the panel.

Over 500 travel and tourism businesses operating in the South Asian region have been nominated for this year’s edition of the awards.

Voting for the nominees is underway.

SATA 2019 Gala is scheduled to take place in September.

Launched in 2016 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.

Over the past three years, the SATA Gala has been held in Sri Lanka, Maldives and India.


Maldives celebrates arrival of 2024’s 1 millionth tourist



Maldives on Thursday welcomed the one millionth tourist to visit this year.

The one millionth tourist is a Thai named Sutapa Amonwivat, who arrived from Singapore with her husband and two children. This is her second visit to Maldives.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and the Ministry of Tourism gave a warm welcome to Sutapa at the Velana International Airport (VIA) Thursday afternoon. She was welcomed at the VIA by tourism minister Ibrahim Faisal, MMPRC Managing Director Ibrahim Shiury and senior officials of various relevant agencies.

After welcoming her with traditional offerings, she was presented with various gifts by the ministry, MMPRC, customs, immigration, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).

Maldives reached one million tourists in June, three weeks earlier than last year. The number of tourists reached one million on July 16, 2023.

Maldives expects to reach 2 million tourists this year.

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New air route connects Chongqing to Maldives



Chongqing Airlines on Monday began its inaugural flights to Maldives.

The Chongqing-Male route, scheduled three times a week, is expected to strengthen the bonds between China and the Maldives, opening up exciting new opportunities for tourism and cultural exchange.

The inaugural flight was welcomed upon its arrival at Velana International Airport (VIA) in Maldives, where local officials and tourism representatives expressed their enthusiasm for this new development.

“We warmly welcome our friends from China to our beautiful islands. This new connection strengthens our bonds and opens up new opportunities for tourism,” the tourism ministry said on X.

Maldives currently welcomes four airlines from China, including China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Xiamen Airlines.

In January, Maldives government urged tourism stakeholders in both Maldives and China to ramp up efforts to restore China’s position as the primary source market for Maldives tourism, a status held before the onset of Covid-19.

China, being the largest source market for Maldives tourism before the pandemic, saw a resumption of tourist arrivals from January 2023 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. In 2023, the Maldives welcomed 187,118 Chinese tourists, marking a significant recovery in numbers. This year, the Maldives has welcomed the most number of tourists from China, with over 107,940 or 11.5 percent of total arrivals by June 12. 

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CROSSROADS Maldives Introduces Weixin Pay at resorts for seamless guest experience



CROSSROADS Maldives has introduced WeChat Pay, widely known as Weixin Pay in China, across its world-class resorts, SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives. This payment option is made available to enhance the convenience and overall experience for guests from China, making their stay in the Maldives more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Understanding the needs of the diverse guests, CROSSROADS Maldives has integrated WeChat Pay into operations, allowing guests from China to easily and securely conduct transactions using a payment method familiar to them. The introduction of WeChat Pay is a testament to CROSSROADS Maldives’ dedication to enhancing guest satisfaction by offering exceptional experiences at every turn. What is also expected through this initiative is that the guests could benefit from better foreign exchange rates, translating to better savings on their expenditures during their stay.

The option is available for guests in-house conveniently at both resorts as well as across the Marina at CROSSROADS Maldives where a wider variety of unparalleled dining and retail experiences are available for all guests. The day visitors from China will also therefore equally benefit from this new introduction at the Maldives’ premier multi-island integrated leisure destination.

SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a vibrant tropical escape that offers unique and locally inspired experiences. The resort features spacious rooms and villas, a variety of dining options, and an array of recreational activities designed to cater to the desires of modern travellers. Guests can escape to the island’s SAiisational natural beauty, enjoy water sports, and indulge in spa treatments, all while relishing the personalised service that defines Hilton’s Curio Collection.

Hard Rock Hotel Maldives brings the iconic Hard Rock spirit to the tranquil shores of the Maldives. This family-friendly resort offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment, featuring music-inspired experiences, live performances, and the brand’s signature amenities. With luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options, and a plethora of activities for all ages, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives ensures an unforgettable holiday experience for every guest.

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