The Maldives is currently hosting representatives from over 30 tour and travel companies from across Asia, as part of a ‘Discover Your Island’ campaign to increase tourism from these countries.
The representatives were flown to Male’ by Singapore Airlines, while airport developer GMR and the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) set up a networking event with local resort and tour operators at Nasandhura Palace Hotel.
Speaking at the launch of the event, MD of the MMPRC Simon Hawkins observed that tourism arrivals had grown 15 percent year on year, and Maldives was expecting to reach one million visitors a year by November 2012.
“We currently spend US$2 million to bring in one million visitors. By comparison Indonesia spends US$70 million to bring in seven million,” he said.
The Maldives had historically based its marketing strategy on the twin drawcards of sun and sand, but need to differentiate itself given increasing competition with other destinations offering the same attributes, he said.
“One island one resort means that in the Maldives you can have a three star resort within several hundred metres of a six star resort, and everyone is happy and satisfied,” he said, explaining that most other beach destinations had roads, hawkers and crowded beaches.
“In the Maldives [tour and travel] operators have a hundred islands to choose from.”
In spite of the jet-lag, representatives spent the better part of two hours exchanging business cards with local resorts and travel operators,, reviewing services and exploring new opportunities.
Several representatives expressed interest in Hawkin’s suggestions for Maldives tourism, such as an increased focus on the high quality dining offered by many resorts and safari operators, and emphaised that individualising the customer’s experience was a priority.
Marketing and communications managers at the event meanwhile said that growing interest from the Asian market was driving their plans for the future. But other resort representatives indicated that adapting to emerging markets had to be achieved without alienating existing, established markets.
“The new Asian demand is very important, but the resorts that were designed to suit European travelers are trying to find a balance,” said Reethi Rah Sales Executive, Stephen Cordebas. “We don’t want European guests, especially those who come regularly, to feel like the whole package is changing to suit a new market.”