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Clean energy investments can help Maldives post-virus recovery, World Bank says

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Seizing green energy opportunities through increased investments in renewables can contribute to economic recovery in Maldives which had been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, says a World Bank report released Monday.

The latest World Bank Maldives Development Update: In Stormy Seas, which takes an in-depth look at the island nation’s economy and future outlook, highlights the high toll that the pandemic has inflicted on the country’s economy.

As a result of the shutdown of tourism, the Maldives main economic driver, growth is projected to contract by between 13 and 17.5 per cent this year before rebounding to between 7.9 and 8.5 per cent in 2021 as tourism gradually recovers.

To buffer the impact of the crisis, the government has introduced a series of fiscal and monetary measures. The relief package includes loan moratoria and emergency financing for businesses, as well as income support for individuals and discounts on utility bills for poor and vulnerable households.

However, despite large cuts to both recurrent and capital spending, the revenue shortfall resulting from the crisis is expected to elevate the fiscal deficit to at least 14.5 per cent of GDP.

“The Maldives has enjoyed high growth rates in the past few years. But the shocks stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic have upended the Maldives development trajectory and severely affected the Maldivian people,” Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, was quoted in a statement, as saying.

“Focusing on renewable energy can prove to be a good investment at this time – creating jobs and improving the country’s ability to rebound stronger, when opportunities open up.”

The report includes a special focus section on the importance of scaling up renewable energy generation in the Maldives.

Maldivians have enjoyed universal access to electricity since 2008, but heavy reliance on imported diesel and isolated island-based grids drive up the costs of electricity generation. Even with subsidies, which add to the government’s fiscal burden, electricity tariffs are among the highest in the region – which puts additional burden on households.

To alleviate these challenges, the report recommends facilitating more private sector investments in renewable energy, especially in solar photovoltaic technology.

“The Covid-19 crisis illustrates the urgency of strengthening the Maldives’ resilience to external shocks. While the crisis may have hampered efforts to increase its share of renewable energy in electricity generation, this remains a crucial goal”, Florian Blum and Pui Shen Yoong, lead authors of the report, said.

While the required upfront investments are high, the report notes that investing in renewables can help the Maldives to lower its cost of electricity service, fuel import bill and subsidy expenditure, reduce carbon emissions, and create new jobs.

“Scaling up these investments will require greater participation from the private sector, which can be encouraged through power purchasing agreements, net metering and improved system planning,” Joonkyung Seong, World Bank senior energy specialist and author of the special focus section, said.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

The Maldives is preparing to reopen its borders to visitors in July.

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 2,035.

Eight deaths have been reported and 1,311 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 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 were also shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital were 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 was also ordered.

The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the second phase kicking in from Monday and lasting at least until June end.

Photo: Rooftop solar panels installed in the satellite town of Hulhumale under a World Bank-funded project. PHOTO/Environment ministry

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Maldives celebrates arrival of 2024’s 1 millionth tourist

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Maldives on Thursday welcomed the one millionth tourist to visit this year.

The one millionth tourist is a Thai named Sutapa Amonwivat, who arrived from Singapore with her husband and two children. This is her second visit to Maldives.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and the Ministry of Tourism gave a warm welcome to Sutapa at the Velana International Airport (VIA) Thursday afternoon. She was welcomed at the VIA by tourism minister Ibrahim Faisal, MMPRC Managing Director Ibrahim Shiury and senior officials of various relevant agencies.

After welcoming her with traditional offerings, she was presented with various gifts by the ministry, MMPRC, customs, immigration, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).

Maldives reached one million tourists in June, three weeks earlier than last year. The number of tourists reached one million on July 16, 2023.

Maldives expects to reach 2 million tourists this year.

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New air route connects Chongqing to Maldives

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Chongqing Airlines on Monday began its inaugural flights to Maldives.

The Chongqing-Male route, scheduled three times a week, is expected to strengthen the bonds between China and the Maldives, opening up exciting new opportunities for tourism and cultural exchange.

The inaugural flight was welcomed upon its arrival at Velana International Airport (VIA) in Maldives, where local officials and tourism representatives expressed their enthusiasm for this new development.

“We warmly welcome our friends from China to our beautiful islands. This new connection strengthens our bonds and opens up new opportunities for tourism,” the tourism ministry said on X.

Maldives currently welcomes four airlines from China, including China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Xiamen Airlines.

In January, Maldives government urged tourism stakeholders in both Maldives and China to ramp up efforts to restore China’s position as the primary source market for Maldives tourism, a status held before the onset of Covid-19.

China, being the largest source market for Maldives tourism before the pandemic, saw a resumption of tourist arrivals from January 2023 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. In 2023, the Maldives welcomed 187,118 Chinese tourists, marking a significant recovery in numbers. This year, the Maldives has welcomed the most number of tourists from China, with over 107,940 or 11.5 percent of total arrivals by June 12. 

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CROSSROADS Maldives Introduces Weixin Pay at resorts for seamless guest experience

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CROSSROADS Maldives has introduced WeChat Pay, widely known as Weixin Pay in China, across its world-class resorts, SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives. This payment option is made available to enhance the convenience and overall experience for guests from China, making their stay in the Maldives more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Understanding the needs of the diverse guests, CROSSROADS Maldives has integrated WeChat Pay into operations, allowing guests from China to easily and securely conduct transactions using a payment method familiar to them. The introduction of WeChat Pay is a testament to CROSSROADS Maldives’ dedication to enhancing guest satisfaction by offering exceptional experiences at every turn. What is also expected through this initiative is that the guests could benefit from better foreign exchange rates, translating to better savings on their expenditures during their stay.

The option is available for guests in-house conveniently at both resorts as well as across the Marina at CROSSROADS Maldives where a wider variety of unparalleled dining and retail experiences are available for all guests. The day visitors from China will also therefore equally benefit from this new introduction at the Maldives’ premier multi-island integrated leisure destination.

SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a vibrant tropical escape that offers unique and locally inspired experiences. The resort features spacious rooms and villas, a variety of dining options, and an array of recreational activities designed to cater to the desires of modern travellers. Guests can escape to the island’s SAiisational natural beauty, enjoy water sports, and indulge in spa treatments, all while relishing the personalised service that defines Hilton’s Curio Collection.

Hard Rock Hotel Maldives brings the iconic Hard Rock spirit to the tranquil shores of the Maldives. This family-friendly resort offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment, featuring music-inspired experiences, live performances, and the brand’s signature amenities. With luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options, and a plethora of activities for all ages, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives ensures an unforgettable holiday experience for every guest.

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