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MATATO deplores tourism reopening proposals for ‘devaluating Maldives brand’

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A representative body of local travel agents and tour operators has slammed tourism authorities in Maldives for a “devaluation of the Maldives brand”, after draft guidelines that will impose strict restrictions on tourist facilities and visitors when the country reopens its borders were published for industry feedback.

Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) said Wednesday that the “devaluation” of the country’s tourism brand, which had been established over the course of four decades, will have significant negative effect in the months and years ahead.

Travellers are already painting the Maldives as unwelcoming and inhospitable, it added.

“It is important that we prepare ourselves to open our borders and have a practical approach to re-entering the global tourism market, rather than creating an approach that actively hinders an already ailing tourism industry,” a statement read.

“We believe that we should not depart from our 40 year history of welcoming travellers to the Maldives and we believe that a balance needs to be found to ensure that the largest revenue generating sector of the Maldives, the tourism industry, is not further hindered during our recovery process.”

MATATO also denied comments made by officials and media reports that the draft guidelines were prepared with the feedback and input of industry stakeholders.

Despite being a major tourism representative body, MATATO was not discussed during the drafting stage and only received the draft two days ago — when the tourism ministry published the guidelines for feedback, it said.

“Given the severity of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative that all stakeholders are consulted and allowed the opportunity to give diligent feedback, in order to effectively recover from this global crisis,” the statement read.

“We appreciate the initiative now taken by the government to engage in meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders of the tourism industry in order to review the drafted SOP guideline, to facilitate the border’s reopening and the national recovery process.”

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced Wednesday that the Maldives will reopen its borders and restart its worst-hit tourism industry in July.

The president’s announcement came a day after his tourism officials invited comments from industry stakeholders on draft guidelines, which — if finalised — will see the introduction of a $100 visa fee and mandatory on-arrival testing for coronavirus (at a cost of $100 per test) for all tourists when the island nation reopens its borders to visitors.

According to the draft guidelines, which have attracted public criticism for being too harsh and impractical, only resorts and liveaboard vessels that have a so-called “safe tourism licence” will be permitted to open at first.

Tourist establishments will have to pay a $50,000 fee and meet certain conditions to get the licence.

Guests can come to these tourist establishments either by private jet or superyacht from June 1, followed by charter and commercial flights a month later.

Charter flights and private jets will be charged a landing fee of $50,000. Superyachts will also have pay an entry fee fo $10,000.

Meanwhile, guesthouses and hotels will only be allowed to open from August.

There are no plans yet to allow cruise ships.

The tourism ministry expects the restrictions to be in effect until September “unless extended by the government”.

The ministry says the guidelines will only be finalised based on industry feedback.

The coronavirus 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.

All international airlines have suspended scheduled operations to the Maldives, as the island nation enforced a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa in late March in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Even before the visa suspension, the Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea were also banned from entering the country.

All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran were also cancelled.

Cruise ships and foreign yachts were also banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.

With arrival numbers falling and the 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 13 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.

A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 1,186.

Four deaths have been reported and 91 have made full recoveries.

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 stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, 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.

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Bandos Maldives Easter Eggstravaganza: A Celebration of Fun and Adventure

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Bandos Maldives is thrilled to announce the Easter Eggstravaganza, set to take place on March 30th, 2024. This  vibrant celebration promises an unforgettable Easter experience for guests of all ages. The event will feature an  array of exciting activities designed to bring joy and excitement to the holiday festivities. 

Guests are invited to step right up to the Kokko Club Playground and immerse themselves in a world of fun at our  Mini Carnival. Additionally, participants can test their luck and skill at the Blackout Bingo Bonanza, where dabbing  their way to victory awaits. 

For those with a creative spirit, our Easter Art painting session offers the perfect opportunity to unleash their artistic talents and paint their way into spring. Meanwhile, adventure seekers can embark on a thrilling Bunny Trail  Adventure, joining the epic Bunny Hunt Challenge to locate all the hidden bunnies lurking around the Kokko Club. 

At Bandos Maldives, we are committed to providing our guests with extraordinary experiences, and the Bandos  Easter Eggstravaganza is no exception. This Easter, make memories that last a lifetime at Bandos Maldives. Don’t  miss out on the excitement! 

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Baros Maldives: The Perfect Setting for a Joyful Easter in the Maldives

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Baros is a treasure nestled in the Indian Ocean, just waiting to be discovered. This Easter, uncover the myriad of delights on offer for guests celebrating the holiday on our pristine island shores. 

From sunrise dolphin cruises to underwater marvels, serene spa journeys and delicious culinary sensations, every moment on Baros is a magical surprise. From 29th March to 4th April 2024, the Baros team has curated a special program of Easter celebration. Choose from a wide range of specially crafted experiences and curate your very own Easter escape of a lifetime. 

Baros delights the senses. There is something for everyone to enjoy, from snorkelling, diving and exciting excursions to unparalleled destination dining experiences and sensational spa moments. 

Guests are invited to harvest fresh and exotic ingredients from Baros’s Chef’s Garden for a unique meal preparation under the expert guidance of our award-winning chefs. Alternatively, they can immerse themselves in the allure of a specially curated menu, set by the seashore under a tapestry of stars. Every dish is a culinary masterpiece, creating unforgettable moments. 

For adventure on the high seas, guests can spend the day exploring five traditional fishing methods across multiple stunning locations on a fishing extravaganza. Or set sail on Baros’s luxury yacht, Serenity for a sunrise frolic with playful dolphins. 

At Baros, guests are welcomed to immerse themselves in the vibrant tapestry of Maldivian culture as local traditions come alive. Delve into the rich history and customs of our island sanctuary as you tantalise your senses with local delicacies, participate in interactive experiences and listen to captivating narratives from a local historian. 

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The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands Announces 2024 Masters of Crafts Program With Stellar Line-Up of Guest Experiences

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The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands is set to  welcome a shining season of global talent in its signature Masters of Crafts program for the second year  running. Working with some of the world’s most talented masters of food and drink, wellness, adventure  and environmental innovation, the resort’s curation of considered guest experiences has transformative  travel at its heart. From epicurean journeys with Michelin Star chefs and award-winning bartenders, retreats  guided by leading names in wellness, to adventure and learning with surf icons and environmental thought  leaders, 2024 guarantees extraordinary memories of a lifetime.  

The series, which last year included two Michelin Star British chef Tom Sellers with decorated bartenders  from Singapore’s Vijay Mudaliar of Native, to Malaysia’s Jungle Bird and celebrity crystal healer Emma  Knowles, will run throughout 2024 bringing a star-studded choice of dates to the luxury travel agenda. 

The resort’s signature Behind the Bar series is set to impress in 2024. Opening on the 8th March and running  through to the 6th December, this exclusive program promises an exquisite fusion of international mixology  talent, sustainability-focused concepts, and a celebration of local ingredients. Guests will have access to  some of the world’s most decorated drinksmiths with a line-up including; Stockholm’s Hampus Thunholm  from Röda Huset, 8th-13th March, Paul Aguilar & Maros Dzurus from HIMKOK, 5th-6th April, Republic from Singapore, 24th – 25th July, Bangkok’s Matteo Cadeddu from Opium, 9th-10th August, New York’s  Harrison Ginsberg from Overstory, 18th-19th September, Berlin’s Damien Guichard from Wax On, 22nd, 23rd November and Paris’ Hyacinthe Lescoet from The Cambridge Public House, 5th-6th December.

This Easter, from 27th March – 2nd April, New York based meditation practitioner and contemplative  guide Kirat Randhawa, will inspire guests to approach life through a different lens. Randhawa will share  practical tools for self-care on a journey of discovery where transformative sessions and empowering  wellness practices will include; cultivating stillness, igniting and welcoming reflection, inviting expansion,  practicing reinforcement and deepening integration.  

From 23rd-27th May an immersive wellness retreat brings together global gurus of practice with The  Essence of Balance – Elemental Harmony. A week-long program will follow a journey driven by the  spiritual power of the number five and the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and spirit. Guiding a cosmic  dance are five practitioners each custodians of an elemental force.  

California-based international yoga teacher Josh Kramer brings the grounding element of earth with his  celebrated practice blending Iyengar and vinyasa flow. Movement instructor and founder of the Jacy Method, Jacy Cunningham introduces his powerful method of physical movement representing the  adaptability of water, while sound healer and Reiki master Nicole Rutsch will harness the intellect of air  and the power of nature’s vibrations. New York’s Jackie Stewart will channel transcendence of spirit with guided meditation, while guests will be nourished by Nicole Berrie, founder of cult wellness guide,  Bonberi, with a plant-based menu of her most celebrated dishes representing the transformative element of  fire.  

In a Summer of Renewal, The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands is committed to ensuring that all guests  ‘Leave Better’. From 19th-23rd July, celebrity healer and founder of the sound healing school The Copper  Vessel, Susy Markoe Schieffelin, will take residency with a soothing practice guided by the moon. Under  Maldivian skies guests will bathe in Susy’s signature sound baths as enjoyed by millions worldwide, with her clients including Google, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and solo artist LeAnn Rimes. From 15th-20th August the Summer transformation continues with movement guidance from celebrated practitioner and  founder of Project Woman, Abi Adams. During two programs guests will embark on an emotional journey and exploration of hormonal balance with tools of meridian dance, rhythm meditation, music, yoga and  creative writing.  

A first for the resort, 2024 sees the introduction of two retreats partnering with championship surf heroes Nic von Rupp and Victor Bernardo. During the Maldives’ optimum surf season of June and July, the exhilarating escapes led by von Rupp and Bernardo will allow guests to ride and master the four most  popular waves in the North Malé Atoll comprising Chicken, Cokes Surf Break, Honkeys and Jailbreak.  

With his trademark touch of Portuguese flair and German strength, Nic Von Rupp is one of the top ‘big  wave’ surfers in the world. Two-time finalist of ‘World Surf League Big Wave Performance of the Year’,  von Rupp spends his time in pursuit of the world’s largest swells and will take the helm at The Ritz-Carlton  Maldives, Fari Islands from 4th-13th June. Brazilian big wave surfer Victor Bernardo was born on a board,  surfing from the age of four and with global accolades under his belt, he is one to watch on the free surfer  circuit. Bernardo will lead a guest retreat from 1st-7th July

Growing its stable of exceptional gastronomic experiences, 2024 will see pop-up residencies with an  impressive circle of culinary friends. From 27th July-3rdAugust, two Michelin Star and one Michelin Green  Star, Chef Bruno Verjus brings a taste of his Paris restaurant Table by Bruno Verjus to the Fari Islands.  For two nights only, an exquisite menu from the home of the famed ‘tarte au chocolat avec caviar’ will be  created and served under the stars at the resort’s Beach Shack. Guests will also have the opportunity to join  Verjus in an exclusive masterclass, and for the winning bidders of the Marriott Bonvoy Moments’ package, the chance to embark on a big game fishing excursion.  

From 10th-12th August Chef Pam Soontornyanakij, newly crowned Asia’s Best Female Chef 2024, will  bring her celebrated mastery from Bangkok’s Potong. The first and youngest female chef to receive both a  Michelin Star and ‘Opening of the Year’ award from the Michelin guide in the same year will present a  bespoke menu of her progressive Thai-Chinese cuisine in an exclusive two-night residency at Summer  Pavilion.

Chef Rolf Fliegaulkf, founder and executive chef of Switzerland’s Ecco will take over the resort’s Beach  Shack for two nights from 12th-14th November. The two Michelin Star and 18 Gault Millau points’  Fliegaulkf will unveil a creative menu bursting with exquisite flavour pairings demonstrating his signature  approach of ‘purist aroma cuisine’. 

The resort’s Visiting Heroes for 2024 bring inspired interactions with conservationists and environmental  thought leaders. From 8th-18th April legendary ocean explorer, film maker and conservationist Jean-Michel  Cousteau will be returning to the resort in continuation of the Ambassadors of the Environment program  and to provide a truly unique residency. Cousteau will host several presentations focused on marine biology,  lead a number of dives with guests including coral regeneration, and chair a thought-provoking panel  discussion alongside marine biologists and representatives from the Ministry of Climate Change,  Environment, and Energy. An exclusive Marriott Bonvoy Moments’ experience will be available to two  lucky guests via bid application, closing on the 23rd March. 

Joining the Visiting Heroes series, climate activist and Forbes 30 under 30 for social impact, Saad  Amer will play a pivotal role in the development of the resort’s sustainability agenda this year. A UN  consultant and named ‘most influential voice in ESG’ by WWD, Amer will be launching new sustainability  initiatives while undertaking educational programming with local islands and schools as part of the resort’s Community Footprints program. Dates for guest presentations and exclusive panel sessions will be announced soon. 

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