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Maldives and Middle Eastern tourists: Overview and what’s ahead



Dubai, UAE – The number of tourists visiting Maldives from the Middle East have declined over the years. Various stakeholders in the tourism industry have been working hard to revive this market. One such initiative undertaken by Maldives is to participate in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), the largest tourism fair in the Middle East, currently underway in Dubai.

Going by what exhibitors at the ATM have said, the reasons for the market decline are many. The main reason is that the Maldives has lost a portion of the market when other countries that had been closed for Covid opened up.

Hasan Falih, director of Naalis Travels & Tours, said the Middle East market has been declining since last year’s low season.

“Other destinations, such as Bali and Thailand, opened up at very competitive prices. For example, the Saudi market is the most important. The Saudis are going to these places more often than here,” he said.

“Guests are very price sensitive now. If this is to be rectified, we have to promote the country in some other way to the Middle East.”

Falih said there are ways to do this and there is a lot of optimism about the market.

‘Should maintain prices’

Ahmed Mauroof, assistant director of sales at Coco Collection, also said tourist arrivals from the Middle East market started declining as other competitive markets opened up.

While other markets opened at lower prices compared to the Maldives, he said the Maldives is still a very different tourist destination.

“However [even if competitors bring down the price], Maldives is a unique destination. It would be better to maintain prices as a destination. More resorts are also coming up. Airports are also completed and it will be better if the supply increases,” he said.

“If you look at the market in the Middle East separately, the Maldives already has new opportunities for tourists in the region. Flights from the Middle East are also increasing. Earlier, we used to have national carriers like Qatar, Emirates and Gulf Air. Now, Saudi’s budget airline is also starting. Wizz Air has begun too.”

According to official figures, Saudi Arabia brought the highest number of tourists from a single country. However, between January and March, the number of tourists arriving from the country dropped by 41% compared to the same period last year.

In contrast, there has been a significant increase in the number of tourists coming in from Kuwait.

Middle East Top 5 markets (January-March 2023):

  • Southee – 6,000
  • Kuwait – 3,308
  • UAE – 1,950
  • Egypt – 1,266
  • Qatar – 1,221

‘Expanding marketing; providing tourists with more options’

Another exhibitor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Middle Eastern tourists are increasingly visiting destinations in Eruope.

“Saudi travel agencies, for example, are now promoting European destinations. The flights are cheaper and the journey is short,” he said.

“They can spend two weeks at these destinations by paying that same amount they spend four nights in the Maldives.”

When asked what the solution is, he said that more than anything else, the Maldives should be expanding marketing activities.

“It’s not just about attending fairs. Even if we participate in familisation trips and fairs, we don’t get such big events. We need to increase marketing activities and attract tourists to the country,” he said.

Another point he made was that some resorts in the Maldives did not meet the requirements of Middle Eastern tourists.

“These people want rooms with a pool, floating breakfasts, sheesha and privacy,” he said.

“Privacy is not be available in some resorts. The rooms are much closer to each other.”

Muslim Hilmy, vice-chairman of Brennia Kottefaru Resort, said that Dubai and Maldives were among the first tourist destinations to open after Covid, but now that other countries are open, there are different ways and places for tourists.

In order to expand the Middle Eastern market, Hilmy also said marketing activities need to be carried out more vigorously. We also need to look for new markets, he said.

“The number of resorts and beds are on the rise. You have to market it at par. We also need to find new markets,” he said.

“For example, if you look at the Russian market, other destinations are also trying to attract Russian market. If you don’t give push to the Russian market, or you can’t do [enough] to market the country there, then there’s a fear of market decline. It’s been two months or three months since China opened up. But we still can’t get close to what the China market was before the pandemic in the country.”

Noting that the Maldives is a popular destination, he said tourists always come to the Maldives during the winter season. The markets available for the summer season are in the Middle East, China, India and East Asia.

“If the country is strongly advertised in these places, we will be able to keep the market from going down even during the summer season,” he said.

One of the most expensive markets: MMPRC

Managing Director of MMPRC Thoyyib Mohamed said the company is trying to promote the Maldives in more than 15 markets.

“Compared to other major top 10 destinations, the cost of marketing and promotion here is very high. That’s because in terms of cost, campaigns are expensive,” he said.

Here are some of MMPRC’s efforts to promote Maldives in this market:

  • Hosting road shows
  • Campaigns with large tour operators and airlines (e.g., Qatar Airways and Emirates)
  • Outdoor campaigns such as installing billboards
  • Social media campaigns in association with groups

“This is one market we need to concentrate on. However, this market is very different. Even if there are few people coming in, the return is enough for our industry in terms of finances,” Thoyyib said.

On the first day of the ATM fair, MMPRC also met with a Saudi team regarding the promotion of the Maldives.

“They also want to join hands with us for campaigns. There is a benefit [for them] with it as well. They also want to handle more Umra groups. Similar discussions were held today,” Thoyyib said.

“After the Saudi meeting, we understood something valuable. God willing, we will try to carry out more activities for the rest of the year.”

Budget constraints

MMPRC has always been concerned about the fact that they are allocated less than an adequate budget to promote the Maldives as a tourist destination. Thoyyib reiterated the same concern.

“The budget is not enough. However, we are trying to see if we can make do with what we have received. If more work is to be done, the current budget is not enough,” Thoyyib said.

“Especially in the last two years, for example, from participating in fairs like these, the cost of building this place [pavilion] has increased by about 10% at least. That’s why we have to spend a lot on these kinds of physical activities. No matter how costly the event is, we are always doing it as a service as this is the platform for the people of the industry.”


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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