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Japan’s tuna market, the world’s largest, hit hard by coronavirus pandemic



TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s tuna market, the world’s largest, is taking an outsized hit from the coronavirus pandemic, pressuring restaurants and wholesalers at Tokyo’s sprawling Toyosu fish market to adapt to survive.

Businesses had hoped for more activity after Japan lifted its state of emergency in late May, but big events such as shareholder meetings and wedding banquets have remained on hold while many Japanese are still wary of going to restaurants.

Demand for fresh fish, especially the so-called “king of sushi” bluefin tuna, has slumped as the pandemic wiped out orders for events. Tuna prices dropped 8.4% in July from a year earlier, far steeper than the 1.5% annual fall in overall fresh fish prices, government data showed.

“Our sales are down by 60% compared to last August,” said 47-year old Yasuyuki Shimahara, owner of an “izakaya” dining bar specialising in tuna dishes in Tokyo’s Kanda business area.

Shimahara, who opened his restaurant a year ago, started selling boxes of frozen tuna online in July to offset the hit to his businesses from the drop in customers.

He has so far received about 200 orders for the 5,500 yen ($52) box, which contains two pieces of “akami” red meat tuna, and plans to start selling 8,500 yen boxes of more expensive “chutoro” medium fatty tuna later in September.

While some customers buy the boxes as gifts for elderly family members, others are put off by the lengthy process of defrosting tuna, which involves leaving the fish in the fridge for several hours.

Kimio Amano, a 46-year old wholesaler at Toyosu, the world’s largest fish market, said the increase in household consumption had not been enough to make up for lost business elsewhere.

While there was a modest rebound in demand from restaurants for his fish after the state of emergency was lifted, he said big events and business from upscale dining bars, such as those in Tokyo’s Ginza area, had been slow to resume.

That meant he was losing out on big orders, since customers tended to buy 30 to 40 kilograms (kgs) of tuna at a time for events such as wedding banquets and funerals, while sushi restaurants and izakayas generally placed smaller orders of around 10kgs and 6kgs respectively.

“It was pretty good at the beginning of July, but it stalled again from there,” said Amano, in his bluefin tuna stall, after cutting up a 158kg tuna with a huge, sword-like knife.

Amano, who sells mostly high-quality fresh and frozen tuna, said he had seen 30-40% less business than usual over the past month due to low demand from major hotels and restaurants at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

But he said there had been a slight pickup in overseas orders recently, with those from Russia in particular returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Staying in business

Japan’s imports of high-value tuna jumped 10% in 2019, while bluefin imports surged 13% as businesses prepared for big events like the 2020 Olympics, which was later postponed, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said.

In 2018, global imports of tuna were valued at $15.7 billion, while Japan was the biggest tuna importer that year.

But the pandemic has hit the industry hard and Japan’s tuna imports fell 18% in the first six months of 2020 from a year earlier, finance ministry data showed. With people still wary of going out, the outlook is unlikely to change soon.

Tokyo’s sushi restaurants, which tend to be popular among people from other regions, are getting fewer visitors from outside the capital, said Toshio Katsukawa, associate professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

“If you talk with people from such shops, (they say) nobody is coming because travel to Tokyo has been cancelled,” he said.

Kana Kikuchi, who works at a life insurer, said the Japanese tend to go out for sushi to celebrate special occasions. But, in late August, she took her daughter to Shimahara’s tuna restaurant on an ordinary week night just to show support.

“We’re coming so that the restaurant can stay in business,” said the 45-year-old.

Kikuchi said she does not usually eat tuna at home because of the challenging defrosting process.

To help customers like her, Shimahara has added instruction booklets in the boxes sold online on how best to defrost and serve the tuna.

Reporting and photo: Reuters


Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) holds its 34th Annual General Meeting



The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) held its 34th Annual General Meeting at Kurumba Maldives today, with a total of 100 members in attendance. 

The day’s events began with a welcome address from the Chairman of MATI, Mr. Mohamed Umar, who also presided over the session. The agenda included an address from the Secretary General, Mr. Ahmed Nazeer, the review and approval of the minutes of the 33rd AGM, the review and adoption of the Annual Report and Financial Reports for 2023, the approval of the 2024 budget, the appointment of auditors for 2024, the welcoming of new members and election of executive board members to the two vacant positions (by-election).

In the member discussion session, the following topics were covered: the Government’s aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2023 and renewable energy generation in the Tourism Industry, new terminal of Velana International Airport and developments, employment challenges, the Industrial Relations Act and trade unions, environmental conservation and the significance of creating and executing efficient management plans for protected areas like the South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA).

Following the official proceedings, the Minister of Tourism Hon. Ibrahim Faisal and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Hon. Mohamed Saeed joined the forum. The Ministers provided remarks and engaged in a Member Q&A session. This session provided members with the chance to directly engage with the Ministers and delve into crucial industry topics. The queries focused on the Economic Outlook, forthcoming development plans and  immediate challenges and issues affecting the Tourism Industry.

A video presentation was also showcased that delved into the extensive work undertaken by MATI in 2023. The video also touched upon the Tourism Industry’s performance over the past 5 years, as well as the current and projected human resource capacity of the sector.

In his closing remarks, the Secretary General highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing industry challenges and called for greater unison amongst industry stakeholders, ending with an acknowledgement of the promising start to the year in terms of arrivals.

Executive Board Members elected to the 2 vacant positions (by-election):

  1. Ibrahim Shareef, CEO and Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited
  2. Renato De Olivera, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and representative of Marriott International
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Unlocking power of travel storytelling at Travel Creators Exchange 2024



Join us for the Travel Creators Exchange 2024, taking place on February 1, 2024, at the Hotel Jen in Male’, Maldives.

This dynamic event provides a platform for networking and collaboration among Maldives-based travel creators, fostering connections, idea-sharing, and the establishment of lasting partnerships to expand opportunities and monetise content.

Our lineup of distinguished speakers includes:

  • Zihuny Rasheed, Deputy Managing Director of MMPRC, will present on “Power of Digital Storytelling: Collaborative Strategies for Destination Promotion.” MMPRC actively markets the Maldives globally, utilising a comprehensive approach that includes travel trade shows, roadshows, digital marketing, and more.
  • Amjad Thaufeeg, Commercial Director of Kuda Villingili Maldives Resort, brings over 23 years of hospitality industry experience. He will discuss “The Role of Content in Tourism Marketing,” drawing on expertise in revenue, customer service, sales & marketing, and human capital development.
  • Suresh Dissanayake, Assistant Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Heritance Aarah & Adaaran Resorts, with nearly two decades of experience, will shed light on “What does a Sales and Marketing Director Do?” He brings extensive luxury hospitality experience and a proven track record in sales, distribution, and marketing.
  • Vishal Amir Ahmed, a versatile cinematographer and content creator, will explore “Who is a Content Creator.” Currently associated with Various Arts Studio, he specialises in providing multimedia solutions to various clients.

Organised by Maldives Insider, Maldives Virtual Tour, Travel Trade Maldives, and Hotelier Maldives, this collaborative effort aims to empower Maldives-based travel content creators and elevate the Maldives as a premier destination for captivating travel storytelling.

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Acclaimed contemporary artist Ana Pušica explores perpetuality and community at Patina Maldives



Ana Pušica Kramer, an internationally  acclaimed contemporary artist, joins Patina Maldives for an exclusive  art residency in the now infamous Fari Art Atelier. From January 22 to  February 22, 2024, Ana Pušica will grace the shores of the Fari Islands,  weaving a vibrant narrative of colour and emotion across her larger  than-life canvases. 

Her artistry transcends boundaries, melding abstraction and figuration into awe-inspiring masterpieces. Having exhibited globally, from New York to Beijing, Ana’s paintings are a physical, intuitive act rooted in movement.  Described as a “beautiful fluorescent thunderstorm,” Ana’s art explores light and colour, capturing the energy of life itself. 

The Fari Art Atelier which has previously hosted the likes of Daniel Arsham, Chris Stamp and David Nott, will be transformed into Ana’s studio and gallery showcasing her enthralling artworks—a mesmerising journey through poetry, memory, and the vibrant interplay of colour. Guests at Patina are invited to delve into Ana’s world, where each stroke reveals layers of meaning, evoking sensations of intense lightness and boundless interpretation. 

At Patina Maldives, Ana will immerse herself in a month-long residency, inviting the Patina Malidves community or guests and team to witness her artistic fervour firsthand. Guests will have the rare opportunity not only to observe her creative process but also to engage with and create art alongside this luminary.

Experience artistry at its most exclusive

Art Exhibition
Experience Ana’s captivating exploration of colour and emotion in her spellbinding artworks displayed at the Fari Atelier.

Art Workshops: Message in a Bottle
As part of a collaborative artwork, Ana invites Patina guests to participate in short workshops, actively contributing to the creation of a permanent installation at Patina Maldives.

Open Studio Session
Join Ana for an exclusive open studio session, offering guests a behind the-scenes look at her creative process.

Ana Pušica residency package
Discover a world where creativity knows no bounds as Ana Pušica, the maestro of contemporary art, transforms Patina Maldives into an immersive canvas of inspiration.

Book now to secure your experience.
For more information and reservations, please visit Patina Maldives or contact

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