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Foreign tourism investments to register?



“No foreign investor may carry out any tourism related activity in the Maldives except after signing a foreign investment agreement and registering that investment with the Ministry of Tourism.”

Sounds like a major policy shift?

It is neither a new policy initiative nor a recent change in law.

The law

The policy statement is captured eloquently in section 39 of the Maldives Tourism Act. The section has been part of the Tourism Act since the law was first enacted some 21 years ago. Despite the fact that the Tourism Act has undergone amendments at least nine times since its introduction on May 16, 1999, section 39 has survived unaltered, unchanged.

Section 39 of the Maldives Tourism Act says this:

No foreign investor may carry out any tourism related activity in the Maldives except after signing a foreign investment agreement as mentioned in the Foreign Investment Act and registering that investment with the Ministry of Tourism as a foreign investment as provided in the Foreign Investment Act.

As is evident from the language of the section, the position crystallised in the form of section 39 of the Tourism Act is closely related to and deeply rooted in the Maldives Foreign Investment Act – a piece of law that has been in existence for some 41 years already, again unaltered, unaffected.

Section 1 (b) of the Foreign Investment Act that was introduced on May 1, 1979 says that no foreign investment can be carried out in the Maldives except after registering that investment and signing an agreement with the Ministry of Tourism (if the investment is in tourism) and with Ministry of Trade Industries and Labour (if the investment is in any other industry). Ministry of Trade is now succeeded by the Ministry of Economic Development.

Further, section three of the Foreign Investment Act reiterates that every investor in the tourism industry shall sign an agreement with the Ministry of Tourism if that activity relates to tourism, and with the Ministry of Trade Industries and Labor if the business relates to any other industry.

The unpacking

Let’s unpack section 39 of the Tourism Act and understand its components.

Firstly, the section applies to all foreign investments in the Maldives tourism sector. This may mean that it goes beyond the acquisition or leasehold ownership of a resort property. It extends to all verticals of the industry which are open for foreign direct investment.

Secondly, permissibility is dependent on to two events: signing a foreign investment agreement; and registration of the investment as a foreign investment.

The execution of the foreign investment agreement and registration of the investment are both considered as “entry requirements” for a foreign investor. Once a foreign investor travels through these two processes and completes its entry in to the Maldives, it gets to operate at a level field with a local investor in the same space. All other regulatory requirements of the industry are applicable to local and foreign investors alike – for example – the signing of an island lease agreement for lease of a resort property.

This striking legal requirement flows from the Foreign Investment Act which asks tourism sector foreign investors to register their investments with the Ministry of Tourism and investors in the non-tourism sectors to register their investments with Ministry of Economic Development; and irrespective of their chosen industry, to sign foreign investment agreements with the respective ministries.

The breach

Section 39 embodies a classic case of a piece of law that is “more honoured in breach than in the observance.”

While over time foreign investment approvals and signing foreign investment agreements have become synonymous with the Ministry of Economic Development, the requirement of law is in reality equally applicable to foreign investors in tourism and non-tourism sectors alike – as the legal requirement emanates from the same source – the country’s foreign investment law.

However, to our knowledge, there has never been an occasion where this legal requirement has ever been complied with so far as it relates to the tourism industry.

There is nothing in the body of legal rules, guidelines, or administrative bureaucracy of the Ministry of Tourism that dictates a foreign investor to complete a separate process of signing a foreign investment agreement or complete a registration process for its investment with reference to section 39 of the Tourism Act or section three of the Foreign Investment Act.

Whenever this legal requirement was flagged in legal due diligence investigations in the past, the prevailing view of responsible officials had consistently been that the requirements of section 39 are duly met with the signing of the Island Lease Agreement (in place of a separate foreign investment agreement) and grant of an operating license (in place of the registration of a resort investment). As much as they carve out these two requirements, the remaining regulatory requirements on registration and licensing are religiously followed – and applied to all investors alike – local or foreign – in all verticals of the industry.

The shift

However, this position may shift soon.

Ministry of Economic Development (the body responsible among other things for the registration of entities investing or operating in tourism industry) has launched a new FDI policy on February 11, 2020.

Since the inception of this FDI policy, the Ministry of Economic Development is insisting on following the foreign investment law requirements even in case of tourism sector investments – so long as they remain law.

The relief for existing investors is that the policy will be enforced only in respect of future requests – existing investments will not be disturbed.

The conclusion

Since this legal requirement rooted in an archaic piece of law (which has only been followed in its breach) has now been revived with the introduction of the FDI policy, there is bound to be discussion and disagreement. It is likely that the ensuing discussions may stimulate relevant policy makers or interested legislators to make a decision – either to keep the requirement as it is or expunge it from the statute books of the country.

Note: This article has been reproduced with permission from its author: Nasheed & Co., a commercial law firm in the Maldives. The original article can be viewed here.


Indian influencer Niki Mehra in Maldives



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



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



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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