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Guesthouses will be worst-hit in Maldives coronavirus tourism slump, World Bank warns

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Guesthouse owners and their employees in Maldives will bear the brunt of the economic impact on the island nation’s lucrative tourism industry by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Bank said Sunday.

The worst hit economy in South Asia will be the Maldives, where the collapse of high-end tourism could see its economic output shrink by as much as 13 per cent, warned the World Bank.

“Although tourist arrivals are expected to rebound once the pandemic subsides, the loss in global wealth will dampen worldwide tourism growth, especially the luxury segment,” the latest issue of the World Bank’s bi-annual South Asia Economic Focus report read.

“Unlike previous shocks, when tourism was mostly confined to high-end resort islands, the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will disproportionately affect the incomes of guesthouse owners and their employees on local islands, as most of the growth in visitor arrivals has occurred in this segment of the tourist market in recent years.”

The World Bank expects the Maldives to have the largest employment losses as a share of total employment if the lockdown drags on due to the high share of tourism in employment, almost 70 per cent.

The analysis by the 189-member global financial institution comes weeks after a local representative body said the Maldives’ guesthouse sector would face losses of some $28.9 million due to the pandemic.

Publishing the results of a survey, Guesthouse Association of Maldives (GAM) said it is uncertain when the outbreak will be contained but the impact on the guesthouse sector will last for at least six months.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has advised governments in South Asia to “ramp up action to curb the health emergency, protect their people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and set the stage now for fast economic recovery”.

The World Bank also recommended temporary work programmes for migrant workers, debt relief for businesses and individuals while cutting red tape on essential imports and exports.

Last week the Washington DC-based lender said it would deploy up to $160 billion in financial support over the next 15 months to help vulnerable countries deal with the pandemic and bolster their economic recovery.

A total of $17.3 million has been pledged to the Maldives from the World Bank’s fast-track financing facility to help countries fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.

However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of March. Officials say the number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives could drop by half in 2020.

With arrival numbers falling and a blanket visa suspension in effect, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.

Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.

However, the government is at present projecting a possible 5.7 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.

On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.

Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.

However, 14 out of the 20 have made full recoveries. Four Maldivian patients are being treated at designated quarantine facilities, whilst two had been repatriated to their home country of Italy.

The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.

The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a partial curfew in capital Male and its suburbs, and a nationwide closing of schools, colleges and universities. Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks have also been shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital have been asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.

A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands is also in effect.

Photo: Kani Grand

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Indian influencer Niki Mehra in Maldives

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Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC/ Visit Maldives) hosted a familiarisation trip with Amilla Maldives for high-end influencer, Niki Mehra, from India to experience the luxury and romantic offerings of the Maldives from 3rd – 6th May 2024.

The familiarisation trip was a great opportunity to Niki Mehra, a renowned Indian model, fashion, beauty and travel content creator and social media influencer with over half a million followers who has carved a niche in the Indian fashion industry with her unique sense of style. During her time in the Sunny Side of Life, Niki Mehra showcased luxury to romantic experiences of the destination.

The trip promoted Maldives through social media platforms of Niki Mehra while highlighting experiential itinerary offerings of the Maldives. Additionally, the influencer trip assisted MMPRC in propelling growth in the luxury travel segment and honeymoon market by showcasing the Maldives as a premier honeymoon destination for the Indian travellers.

The Indian market has been a strong market for the Maldives over the years, currently ranked number 6 with 46,970 tourists as of 13th May 2024. Additionally, MMPRC showcased the Maldives in OTM and SATTE held earlier this year. MMPRC is committed to boosting the arrivals from the market and has exciting marketing activities planned for future, including joint campaigns, familiarisation trips, participation in major events and other campaigns which provides numerous opportunities to showcase the breathtaking Maldives to the market, attracting more Indian travellers.

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130 hotels in The Prestige Collection with 4 Maldives properties

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The Prestige Collection has reached 130 hotels in its portfolio, continuing to uphold quality and excellence as core pillars. It represents the most exclusive selection within Keytel, the world’s first alliance of independent hotels.

Since its establishment in 2007, The Prestige Collection has been dedicated to meeting the growing demand for luxury hotels, becoming a reference for hospitality industry specialists. Despite its focus on independent hotels, the collection has successfully attracted prestigious properties from international luxury chains such as Rosewood Villa Magna, Mandarín Oriental Ritz Madrid, and Fairmont Mayakoba in Riviera Maya. These hotels view The Prestige Collection as a complement to their commercial strategy for attracting luxury clientele.

With a prominent presence both nationally and internationally across 36 countries, The Prestige Collection shines in with four distinguished resorts: Baglioni Resort Maldives, Diamonds Athuruga Maldives Resort & Spa, Diamonds Thudufushi Maldives Resort & Spa, and Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa. Internationally, the collection boasts emblematic properties like Armani Dubai, Café Royal in London, The Pierre in New York, and Kappa Senses in Ubud, Bali, among others.

The collection categorises hotels into four distinctive categories, highlighting ideal places to disconnect, properties in vibrant urban settings, coastal options for those seeking serenity, and unique experiences for those seeking singularity.

Furthermore, this milestone coincides with the relaunch of its new experiential website platform. This platform offers users and industry professionals the opportunity to explore the collection in greater detail and drives qualified traffic to the official websites of member hotels.

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Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO) Marks a Significant Step Towards Transforming Urban Waste Management

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Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO) marked a significant step towards plastic waste management with the adoption of dedicated vehicles handed over to boost this transformation of urban waste management supported by The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Maldives.  

In March 2024, UNDP Maldives officially handed over a fleet of six vehicles to WAMCO, which included two electric vehicles (EVs), as part of an initiative aimed at enhancing waste management across the Greater Male’ Area (GMA). This acquisition, facilitated through the financial support of TCCF paves the way for a crucial advancement in bolstering PET collection efforts and tackling the challenge of plastic waste in the Maldives.

“This initiative marks a significant step towards boosting recycling rates and combating environmental pollution in the Maldives,” stated Pek Chuan Gan, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Maldives speaking at the handover ceremony. “Integrating electric vehicles into WAMCO’s fleet and improving PET recycling processes not only lowers carbon emissions but also pioneers renewable energy use in waste management. It’s a vital move for steering the Maldives towards a sustainable and renewable-powered future.”

The provision of electric vehicles marks a continuation of UNDP Maldives’ support to the Government’s vision to introduce renewable energy in key sectors such as waste management that significantly contribute to the country’s renewable energy transition ambition. By embracing clean energy solutions, such as electric vehicles in waste management practices, the Maldives can further reduce its carbon footprint and move closer to achieving its renewable energy goals.

“Utilizing eco-friendly vehicles is a pivotal change for WAMCO, signifying a major leap towards modernizing waste management in the Maldives,” remarked Mujthaba Jaleel, Managing Director, from WAMCO. “This collaboration highlights the shared commitment to environmental stewardship and the potential for such partnerships to catalyse meaningful progress in sustainability and about the positive impact these vehicles will have on our operations and the environment.”

Representatives from UNDP Maldives, WAMCO, and The Coca-Cola Foundation’s unified efforts towards a sustainable future. Photo courtesy: CIAO Advertising.

“Our commitment goes beyond just recycling; it’s about fostering a culture of sustainability,” remarked Saadia Madsbjerg, President, Coca‑Cola Foundation and VP Community Affairs. “By enhancing waste management in the Maldives, we aspire to set a benchmark for environmental stewardship.”

For The Coca-Cola Foundation, together with the stakeholders, the aim is to propel Maldives towards a future where plastic circularity is not just envisioned but actively pursued. By channelling resources and expertise into the heart of waste management, TCCF has made a sizeable contribution in enhancing and attracting investment to this crucial sector in the Maldives. This initiative is a testament to TCCF’s commitment to fostering sustainable practices and promoting the reuse and recycling of plastics, thereby reducing environmental impact, and paving the way for a circular economy.

The fleet handover event held on March 18, 2024, served as a celebration of collaboration in waste management. Representatives from UNDP Maldives, WAMCO, The Coca-Cola Foundation, government officials, and stakeholders came together to mark this significant step and reinforced their collective dedication to building a more sustainable future for the Maldives.

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