Michal Kapral breaks second world record in Maldives

Maldives on Friday played host to a third world record attempt, with Canadian joggler Michal Kapral breaking the world record for the most consecutive stairs climbed whilst juggling continuously.

During a children’s evening at the Sultan Park in capital Male, Kapral attempted to climb 3,000 stairs whilst juggling three balls, but dropped the balls at the 2,544th stair. It still allowed him to break the current record of 608 stairs.

It was the second world record attempt by Kapral in the Maldives.

Kapral, who holds the world records for running the fastest marathon and half-marathon whilst juggling, and for the fastest 10-kilometre run whilst juggling without a drop, broke his own 10-kilometre record with four balls at the “Run in Addu” event in the southernmost atoll of Addu last week.

The world record by Kapral comes days after the Maldives itself broke the world record for the most people freediving simultaneously.

On October 1, the island nation’s President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih joined 520 others in simultaneous freediving off the lagoon of Baros Maldives resort, staying underwater for around 30 seconds.

These world record attempts are part of the Maldives’ newfound push into sports tourism.

The island nation’s official tourism promotion body had earlier announced plans to look beyond the Maldives’ longstanding selling points of ‘Sun, Sand and Sea’ and venture into MICE, cultural and sports tourism.

The Maldives has been known as ‘The Sunny Side of Life’ for decades, owing to its monsoon-based climate, as well as the pristine white sand beaches and clear blue waters.

However, with recent changes in tourist demographics and the introduction of more affordable products such as guesthouses, there is a need to diversify the Maldives’ branding.

The government had earlier said cultural tourism would play an important role in developing the Maldives’ tourism industry. However, a concrete step has yet been taken to realise those objectives.

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.

According to official figures, total arrivals for the past seven months of the year increased by 17.2 per cent to reach 994,733 compared to the same period last 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

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