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Maldives gets praise as unparalleled natural wonder

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“Maldivian? You are lucky,” is the kind of response I got while I was covering the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) fair in Dubai when anyone realised I was from Maldives.

These people were in a city popular as a modern and high-end tourism destination that flourished in the barren desert of the UAE. Starting with beautiful beaches and luxury services, it’s also home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. It is also the UAE’s main business hub. But for almost all of them, it was the tiny island nation of Maldives that has stolen their heart.

There was a man standing near Maldives’ beautiful stand at the ATM fair. He was watching people who had climbed into the 360 photo booths set up in the stand and was clicking pictures. When I asked him if the stand was nice, he said it was beautiful. Although the stand showcased the country’s scenery, the man had never been to the Maldives.

“I’ve never been to the Maldives yet, but someday [I’ll go]. It’s on my bucket list,” he said.

Everyone who came to the Maldives stand during the fair made similar comments. Maldives, which won the Best Stand Feature award at the fair, was lauded.

A big portion of Dubai’s three million strong population is workers from different countries. From taxi and delivery services to tourism business and other sectors, foreigners are often seen at different levels in different sectors. I got to meet and speak to so many of them every day.

I discussed Dubai with a Pakistani taxi driver I met one day. Since I was not on vacation and had not been out sight-seeing much, I told the driver that all i saw were high-rise buildings and not much else. His next question to me was where I was from. When I said I was from the Maldives, he did not know which country it was. So I Googled and showed him pictures of Maldives on my phone.

“It is so beautiful! I have never seen a place like this,” he replied, widening his eyes and responding in the exact same way that anyone who sees Maldives for the first time does.

“If this is where you come from, how will you like anywhere else?”

During my visit to the ATM fair, I met someone who had worked in the Maldives in the past. The Indian had moved to Dubai and now works at a hotel there.

“I used to work at a resort in the Maldives, but due to the pandemic, I lost my job and had to go back,” he said.

Asking about the situation in the Maldives post-pandemic, he said he still wants to return to Maldives. He said there is no place like the Maldives.

Not without reason. I also asked various people I met like this about life in Dubai. Everyone says that in Dubai they earn much better than working in their own countries. According to them, it is also easier to get a UAE visa.

Then there is the question of the cost of visiting the Maldives. Everyone I met said they wanted to go to Maldives even if for once in their lives. Their question is how to manage the big responsibilities in their lives and make the trip to visit an expensive place like Maldives.

It’s true. The Maldives is an exotic tourist destination. That’s how it is known for. But with guesthouse tourism, there is now a chance to experience the Maldives on a budget. In addition to that, there are budget airlines operating to the country. I passed this information on and told them that people from different walks of life can experience the Maldives now.

People’s praise rained on Maldives even at a high-end place like Dubai. Those who have visited still want to come back again. Those who have not, are waiting for the opportunity.

Arab businessmen also know that there is no place like the Maldives. The Maldives has won the World’s Leading Destination, the most prestigious award given by the World Travel Awards, for three consecutive years since 2020. Dubai was on the nominated list of places on all three occasions.

The Maldives has set an example for Saudi Arabia in their efforts to enter the tourism sector as part of their economic diversification plans. Efforts are underway to develop resorts similar to those in the Maldives and open some of them this year. The Maldives is a unique place. The concept of ‘One Island, One Resort’ has been developed and mastered by the Maldives, unique to the Maldives and accepted by the whole world.

The next question is whether the replication of Maldivian resort concepts in another country will have any negative impact on the demand for resorts in the Maldives.

When asked about this on the last day of the ATM, MMPRC Managing Director Thoyyib Mohamed said that Maldivian tourism will be adversely affected if efforts are not made to promote the Maldives, regardless of the concept being recreated or not.

“There will be places that are like ours, or different from the Maldives. There will be  in the future too. But will that have an impact? It will affect us even if it is not like Maldives if we stay idle like this without working,” he said.

“We have to explain how we are unique, what are the natural differences, and our experience is that we we always explain what food is available where, what can be done at different locations and explain the specialised features of different resorts. This is what we try to sell. We see if we can describe the experiences that could be had in the country and promote it.”

Thoyyib’s point was that we need not focus on the fact that places similar to the Maldives are being built, but rather, focus on how we can better market the Maldives to the world as the unique travel destination it is. The idea should be to market it properly. Both at the ATM fair and in Dubai, people’s perception of the Maldives and the level of demand for the place was evident. All that is left is to advertise properly.

Rich Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia can build facilities similar to Maldivian resorts. But the experience here is not something that can be replicated. Historical places cannot be copied. The beauty of the country is purely natural. Even if imitated, it will not be as perfect as is divinely crafted.

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Weixin Pay supported to boost Chinese tourists to Maldives

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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

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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

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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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