MATATO recognises MMPRC’s renewed destination marketing efforts
Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has applauded the work done by the Maldives’ official tourism promotion body, as the destination witnesses a record number of tourist arrivals throughout the year.
In a statement, MATATO, which has been lobbying for better destination marketing efforts by the government, said it recognises and acknowledges the revamped destination marketing activities carried out by the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC). Those activities have had a significant positive impact on the growth of tourist arrivals, it added.
“MATATO commends and credits the management of MMPRC under the leadership of Managing Director Thoyyib Mohamed, on the positive results in the past six months that has seen record breaking numbers in terms of tourist arrivals compared to that of the last five years,” the statement read.
MMPRC has conducted several destination marketing activities this year, including 15 trade fairs in 12 markets, five roadshows in 13 markets, 13 media fam trips, 11 promotional activities carried out via worldwide PR agents and 12 joint promotional activities.
Meanwhile, MATATO said it was compelled to step in to play the role of the de facto destination marketing body from 2016 to 2018 as destination marketing efforts and budget were limited and suppressed under the previous government.
In 2017 and 2018, MATATO was in 29 countries — from major emerging markets like India, Thailand, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to more established markets such as United Kingdom, China and Russia.
In 2017, MATATO also launched a dedicated marketing campaign for the Indian market, with a target of making India the largest source market for the destination.
This year, MATATO has hosted destination stands in Vietnam, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and India. The organisation has also planned roadshows in four South East Asian countries, as well as promotional activities at the upcoming PATA Travel Mart in Kazakhstan.
“However, since the revival of MMPRC as the leading destination marketing authority, MATATO has taken a back seat on the destination marketing efforts, as the association strongly believes destination marketing should be done by a government body like other successful tourism destinations,” the statement read.
MATATO called on the authorities and industry stakeholders to spend even more on destination marketing. Marketing is one of the few areas in hospitality where the expenditure has a direct Return on Investment (ROI), as it translates into increased revenue through taxes and indirect economic benefits through increased business activity, it said.
“The association lobbies for even bigger destination marketing budget for 2020 with increased supply in the market means to bridge a strong increase in demand for the destination as well,” the statement read.
“MATATO is presently working on increasing more trainings and workshops for its members and the industry. The association also is working to make technology platforms for booking systems more affordable for its members.”
Maldives has welcomed over a million tourists this year, as the destination attempts to reach an ambitious target of 1.5 million visitors over the next three months.
The one millionth visitor of the year arrived in the Maldives on August 2 — a month ahead of last year. In 2018, the one millionth mark was reached on September 9, whilst it was celebrated in October the previous year.
Maldives welcomed a record 1.4 million tourists in 2018. It was a 6.8 per cent increase from the 1,389,542 tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2017.
Meanwhile, government has revised its forecast for the number of tourists visiting the island nation this year, increasing the estimate to a record 1.6 million from 1.5 million.
This positive growth in the tourism industry comes amidst concerns by 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 an increased 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 to more than 130. That number is set to increase as another 20 resorts are expected to open 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 500 guesthouses in operation today.
The previous government announced 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.
Meanwhile, the new government has pledged to ramp up tourism promotion.
Reflecting the new government’s pledge, the state budget for 2019 includes MVR 104,200,000 (USD 6.7 million) for tourism promotion, up from MVR 34,733,333 (USD 2.2 million) this year and the previous year.