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As Hotel Asia Exhibition returns, Alan Palmer sets eyes on nurturing Maldivian talent



By Shamman Zahir

South Asia’s largest hospitality tradeshow, Hotel Asia will take place this October after a hiatus due to the pandemic with the much-awaited International Culinary Challenge kicking off a day ahead. The exhibition, organised by Maldives Exhibition and Conference Services and supported by Bestbuy Maldives, is to be held at Dharubaaaruge, for which several resorts, hotels, restaurants, food and beverage establishments have also confirmed participation.

Alan Palmer who has been the Programme Director since its inception in 2002 reflects on how the Hotel Asia Exhibition and International Culinary Challenge is going to be after a three-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s exhibition marks the 16th edition of this jam-packed event, with over 600 competitions over the course of four days of the International Culinary Challenge. The timing also coincides with the Maldives celebrating the golden jubilee of tourism.

Palmer has an impressive career spanning 59 years having got his start at the age of 16. Since 1963, his career has taken him to various continents during their key development stages of the hotel industry of the respective countries such as Switzerland and Singapore.

Palmer’s first visit to the Maldives was in 1996 when he arrived in the country as a judge for a competition organised by the tourism ministry. His next visit was for Hotel Asia, which was started by Maldives Exhibition and Conference Services and Bestbuy Maldives with just tents and canopy. It has come a long way since!

“The idea behind Hotel Asia was born with the idea in mind to showcase Maldivian talent, to give Maldivians an international stage to compete and learn from world-class chefs from around the globe, all the while attracting interest from local youth and businesses to join in the industry,” Palmer says.

As tourism is the biggest contributor to the Maldivian economy, it was a necessity to establish a platform like Hotel Asia. As demand grew, since 2011, Maldives Exhibition and Conference Services and Bestbuy Maldives have held the event year up until 2019 when COVID-19 shut the tourism industry down.

At Hotel Asia, 15 judges from around the globe certify the winners, and some winners are sent abroad for further training and competitions thanks to the generous support of Bestbuy Maldives. The platform, spearheaded by Maldives Exhibition and Conference Services and Bestbuy Maldives, is committed to the development of Maldivian talent. With a waitlist of companies, it is clearly popular, but it is not without its hurdles. The infrastructure improvements are vital to provide space for more exhibitors, as new hotels open up across the archipelago.

“Understandably, Maldives being a small island nation needs a convention centre that is functional to implement as a MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences Exhibitions) market,” Palmer says.

“Despite Maldives being scattered, the resolve and organisation of hotels sending their chefs and the chefs themselves to have the commitment to make the journey despite logistical challenges to participate is admirable.”

Palmer’s advice to the youth is that if they remained consistent and persevere, they would be able to climb the ladder as a chef and a judge beyond their home soil to be renowned globally. There is a career to be made to those who have the passion and maintain a standard. As the Programme Director of the International Culinary Challenge, the aim is to nurture more local talent and skilled professionals. The vision for the future is to further improve and expand the exhibition to cater to the evolving needs of the industry.

The 16th edition of the Hotel Asia Exhibition and International Culinary Challenge, organised by Maldives Exhibition and Conference Services and sponsored by Bestbuy Maldives, will be held from October 10-12, 2022 at Dharubaaaruge in capital Male. The free to enter exhibition estimates a turnout of 4,000 people this year.


Pulse Hotels & Resorts unveils new residential project: The Coral Residences, Kandima



Pulse Hotels & Resorts, one of the leading innovators in Maldives tourism, has introduced The Coral Residences, Kandima. Nestled on the northern end of the lush and green three-kilometre-long Kandima Integrated Island Resort in Dhaalu Atoll, this residential development is a first of its kind and promises to redefine luxury living in the Maldives.

Designed and crafted with meticulous attention to detail, The Coral Residences, Kandima, is a unique, integrated beachfront residential community with exceptional 5-star service, situated in the shimmering blue heart of the Maldives.

The Coral Residences comprises of 40 exquisitely designed two bedroom and three bedroom apartments. All apartments feature contemporary design and chic interiors, high-end finishes, state-of-the-art appliances, and unobstructed panoramic sea views across the Indian Ocean. Residence owners will enjoy exclusive access to a host of premium facilities, including a private beachfront pool, a gourmet restaurant and bar, dedicated fitness and recreation facilities and a 24-hour concierge service.

Buyers of The Coral Residences will be able to own their apartments under the new strata title ownership program. Owners’ apartments will be part a rental program, managed by Pulse Hotels & Resorts. Residents will have the access to the full range Kandima’s 5-star resort services, including its restaurants and bars, spa, recreation, and other amenities to complement their lifestyle. With its emphasis on comfort, convenience, and community, this development offers a truly elevated living experience.

“We are thrilled to introduce The Coral Residences, Kandima, to discerning local and international buyers,” said Sanjay Maniku, Managing Director of Pulse Hotels & Resorts. “With its unparalleled design and amenities, homeowners can take advantage of a limitless world of activities and experiences on offer at Kandima. We believe this development will set a new standard for luxury living in the Maldives, as well as bringing a new definition to the Maldives family vacation.”

The Coral Residences is realised by Pulse Hotels & Resorts, the creators behind The Nautilus Maldives, Kandima Maldives, and Nova Maldives. Known for their innovative hospitality concepts, Pulse Hotels & Resorts ensures that each property offers exceptional experiences and world-class service. The development has commenced and is expected to complete within Q3, 2025.

For more information, high-resolution images, and to schedule a private viewing, please contact Aishath Ihuma, Director of Business Development at +960 7788986 or

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Weixin Pay supported to boost Chinese tourists to Maldives



On May 27, Zihuny Rasheed, Deputy Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC/Visit Maldives), and Etienne Ng, Weixin Pay’s Country Manager, Singapore and Regional Director, Southeast Asia, WeChat Pay, signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during ITB China 2024, pledging to support more Maldivian merchants to accept WeixinPay to provide Chinese tourists with a convenient payment experience. Visit Maldives is the Official Destination Partner for this year’s edition of ITB China.

“China is a key source of tourists for the Maldives, and we greatly value the experience of Chinese visitors,” said DMD Zihuny Rasheed. “We plan on promoting the acceptance of Weixin Pay throughout the country, offering Chinese tourists the payment option they are familiar with and prefer. I have used Weixin Pay during my visit to China via linking an international card, and I can attest to the convenience of the mobile payment option.”

Ibrahim Faisal, Minister of Tourism of the Maldives, expressed his support, “Excited that we’re introducing Weixin Pay for Chinese visitors, which is another step in establishing Maldives as their top destination. Now, it’s easier than ever for Chinese travellers to enjoy their stay, hassle-free. We look forward to further enhancing their experience,” he wrote.

According to Etienne Ng, Weixin Pay is currently being piloted at the country’s airport duty-free store, as well as in popular restaurants like Sala Thai and City Garden. Additionally, a range of hotels and resorts are participating including, JEN Maldives Malé by Shangri-La, Adaaran Select HudhuranFushi, Adaaran Club Rannalhi, Adaaran Prestige Vadoo, Adaaran Prestige Water Villas, Velaa Private Island, Cheval Blanc Randheli Private Island, Dhawa Ihuru Maldives, Ayada Maldives, Marriott Bonvoy, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and Angsana Velavaru in Maldives with strong support from the Bank of Maldives and local merchants. Making smooth progress, the initiative is expected to have 8,000 merchants nationwide that integrate the payment option.

“Weixin Pay is committed to providing users with safe and convenient payment services. Since the visa exemption policy was implemented, more and more Weixin Pay users have chosen to travel to the island country. Through our cooperation with Visit Maldives, we aim to provide Chinese users with the same convenient experience in the travel as they experience at home,” he said.

In February 2023, an Agreement on Mutual Exemption of Visa Requirements signed between the Maldives and China took effect as China expands its visa-free policy to benefit more countries. Consequently, the Maldives has consistently ranked among the top overseas destinations for Chinese tourists during popular travel periods such as the May Day and National Day holidays.

According to data from Visit Maldives, the country welcomed over 1.8 million tourists in 2023, a new national record. The Chinese market has been a key source market for the Maldives. As of 11th May 2024, it is the number one source market with 91,073 tourist arrivals.

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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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