Abdulla Mausoom appointed Maldives new tourism minister

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday appointed Dr Abdulla Mausoom as the tourism minister.

In a tweet, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Hood announced the appointment of Mausoom, who had been serving as the Maldivian ambassador to Singapore since early 2019.

The tourism minister’s post became vacant after President Solih dismissed then minister Ali Waheed in July following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.

Since Waheed’s dismissal, economic minister Fayyaz Ismail had been overseeing the tourism ministry.

Mausoom had served as the tourism minister during the administration of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as well. He is also a former parliamentarian.

Mausoom, who had held high positions in the tourism industry of the Maldives, attained his doctorate from University of Birmingham, UK. He did his doctoral thesis on the interdependency and the relationship between the government and the private sector in sustainable tourism development.

The appointment comes as the Maldives tourism industry grapples with the worst crisis in its 48-year-long history amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

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, only 382,760 tourists visited the Maldives before the country closed its borders on March 27. It was a 40.8 per cent decline over the 646,092 that visited the Maldives from January to March last year.

Meanwhile, the government’s best case scenario now puts total tourist arrivals for 2020 just above 800,000. 

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 4,594.

Nineteen deaths have been reported, while 2,706 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 third phase measures now active. Borders have also reopened.

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