Maleeh, Taking MATATO Forward
Maldives Promotion House – You know how most of us wake up from a dream and don’t really think much of it. Just like a movie, we don’t really think about the film crew behind the scene. Sometimes we lay back and talk about the movie, but we don’t really talk about the people who did all the hard work.
Most people dream of a perfect Maldives, where everything runs itself. Like most dreams people don’t really notice the people who make it work. Meet Mr. Maleeh Jamaal. He walked me through how Maldives still remains a little paradise. Maldives, that’s where most celebrities and romantics come to celebrate. Over half a million of them arrive here every six months, with their eyes glowing and their faces radiating their dreams.
Mr. Maleeh Jamaal is the Secretary General of Maldives Association for Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), an organisation formed in 2006 which represents the Maldivian Travel Agents and Tour Operators. He is also well known among industry professionals.
It was in 1999 when he began to work for the Tourism Ministry of Maldives that Mr. Jamaal found his way into the Tourism Industry. After working for about a year in the Trade Standard Section of the ministry he left abroad for his studies.
“In 1999 I joined the Trade Standard Section, because I have always wanted work in the industry. Before the ministry I had actually worked in MTCC and one other private company,” Mr. Jamaal explained in an exclusive interview with Maldives Promotion House.
After taking a degree in Tourism Mr. Jamaal rejoined the ministry which marked the beginning of his career. Soon he moved to Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) which was working along with the ministry to promote Maldives as a destination.
“Back then, the ministry was working closely with MTPB. It was more like a sector of the Tourism Ministry. So it was relatively easy for me to transfer to MTPB. They were mostly involved in resort inspections,” he noted.
After working at MTPB for a year Mr. Jamaal once again went abroad to United States of America for his masters in Tourism. After he finished his masters Mr. Jamaal worked with MTPB until 2009. He explained that it was an “interesting time to work in the field,” due to the large scale development work which was being carried out in the Maldivian tourism industry.
During this period of development and establishment, there was a sudden boom in tourism along with the introduction of many resort islands. However it was during his inspections and visits to resorts that Mr. Jamaal had learned about how the industry was thriving in Maldives, allowing him to further promote Maldives.
“When I went for the inspections I learnt a lot about how the resorts were designed and operated and I got to meet a lot of people. So by meeting with foreigners I learnt their opinions about Maldives. I got to know them,” he said.
However after a fulfilling career in promoting tourism Mr. Jamaal stepped away from the field for some time. During this time, Mr. Jamaal explored the major sectors of the industry and pondered on how to solve the issues faced by the industry.
Today Mr. Jamaal is back in the industry working at MATATO. He joined MATATO because he knew that it is a “lacking component in the travel industry.” He said that while the industry itself is very strong and developing swiftly, there is a huge opportunity for local travel agents and tour operators. However he stressed that there are many challenges currently faced by local Travel Agents.
“Travel agents and tour operators can be seen as a subsector of the tourism industry. But for local agents to become successful there should be laws protecting them, and the perception of the resorts towards local agents should also change,” he noted.
Mr. Jamaal said that the local Tour Operators and Travel Agents “should be empowered.” He further added that they need better rates and more support from the resorts for them to be successful in the industry.
Currently working as the Secretary General for the “voice and most active lobbyist of Tour Operators and Travel Agents,” as he describes it, Mr. Jamaal believes that some things must change for the good of local companies. “For this to be done, some laws must be changed,” he said.
While there is much work to be done, Mr. Jamaal and MATATO have already achieved a lot. “I was selected as Secretary General during the second executive board members selections. Since then it has been two years and we have achieved a lot,” Mr. Jamaal noted.
“I don’t think before 2010 people would have even known what MATATO was. You could easily confuse it with a tropical fruit,” he humoured. “We have organised multiple fairs in different countries and our most important achievement is the publication of Maldives Finder.
Maldives Finder is a magazine published by MATATO to introduce their members to the world and to promote Maldives. Currently Maldives Finder is being distributed all over the world and is also a popular magazine in resorts.
When asked about his future plans, Mr. Jamaal said that MATATO will, in association with UNDP, Economic Ministry and Tourism Ministry, carry out a major project in the near future. “We are going to conduct the first survey about Tour Operators and Travel Agents in Maldives. It has four components,” he said.
“We will compile a comprehensive report on operators, the challenges they face and how to handle it. The next is a Strategic Framework and a MATATO Code of Conduct. We are also going to push towards the amendment of the Travel Agents and Tour Operators regulation. It was created a long time ago and needs a lot of work,” he added.
Mr. Jamaal said that the most important part would be the Code of Conduct. He also explained that there are lots of complaints about “price undercutting” in the “cutthroat competition” between companies. He also noted that because some agents are negligent on making payments to resorts, the Code of Conduct will be a confidence building set of rules that every MATATO member should follow.
With all his efforts Mr. Jamaal wishes to expand this unexplored territory in the industry which is full of opportunities. According to Mr. Maleeh MATATO’s aim is to ensure that at least 50 percent of the beds in Maldivian Tourism Industry are sold by Maldivian Tour Operators and travel Agents.
While MATATO is currently in the midst of its executive board elections, Mr. Jamaal hopes to be selected as Secretary General once again. Mr. Maleeh Jamaal is among those people who ensure the sustainment of the tourism industry in Maldives.
Though he may not be as well know among the public his efforts and the work of MATATO is what keeps the engine from spinning out of control. He is the film crew behind the scene. He is part of the system that brings in those half a million celebrities and romantics every six months, so that they can experience the unmatched bliss of this paradise.