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IFC invests up to $50 mln to support virus-hit Maldives tourism

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The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is investing up to $50 million in Bank of Maldives (BML) to provide financing for companies and small and medium sized businesses in the Maldives’ tourism sector, which had been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The investment by the World Bank’s private sector financing arm is set to be released in three tranches — of which the first tranche comprising of $20 million was committed Wednesday.

The move is part of IFC’s first phase of crisis support for countries.

It will allow the Maldives’ largest bank to provide much needed working capital finance, which is expected to benefit businesses, their employees and suppliers in tourism and related industries.

While yet unconfirmed, there is also provision to mobilise up to a further $50 million in loans to support BML.

Tourism, the mainstay of the Maldivian economy, contributes over two-thirds of the country’s GDP, 80 per cent of exports, 40 per cent of revenue and has been the key factor behind the country’s rapid economic growth and improved standard of living in recent years.

But with Covid-19 spreading across borders and tourism brought to a complete halt, the Maldives is likely to be one of the hardest hit countries in South Asia, with predictions on growth expected to contract by 13 per cent in 2020.

“As the largest bank in the country and the leading lender to the tourism industry, BML has already designed a short-term financing program to support severely affected businesses, providing working capital to resorts and guesthouses to help tide them through the pandemic,” BML chief executive Timothy Sawyer was quoted in a statement, as saying.

“This injection of millions of dollars in support from IFC is extremely timely and will provide further support to our efforts to respond to the crisis.”

Tourism arrivals in Maldives started to fall from February onwards, declining 63 per cent year on year in March and subsequently reaching zero as the country closed its borders in March.

It is estimated one-third of adult males and a quarter of women are engaged in tourism-related jobs. A recent UNDP and government analysis showed that 22,000 local resort employees have been directly affected by the pandemic.

“We recognise that efforts to revive tourism, which is the backbone of the Maldivian economy, are now at a critical point and require a coordinated, flexible and fast response,” Amena Arif, IFC Country Manager for Maldives and Sri Lanka, said.

“IFC’s financing for the Bank of Maldives will help support the reopening of the country’s largest industry and fund the Bank’s small and medium sized enterprise value chain. We are prepared to do more to assist as the country moves from recovery to rebuilding. IFC stands with the Maldives at a time when it matters the most.”

Tourism is a strategic priority for IFC in the Maldives because of the strong development impact it brings to the economy.

IFC’s strategic approach in Maldives focuses on supporting inclusion, sustainability, and connectivity by addressing the country’s biggest development gaps through private sector solutions.

IFC has been supporting the private sector in the Maldives since 1983 — with over $200 million in investments so far.

Photo: One Online

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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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