Thirty-two managers of guest houses in the island of Maafushi have established the Guest House Association of Maldives with the objective of developing and promoting the sector.
Association member and Manager of Maafushi Inn Hussain Raznee interprets the government’s current guest house island policy as an attempt to inhibit the current guest house business model.
“The establishment of guest house islands will not have any benefits at all for those of us living in the islands,” said Raznee, saying that the current model provide local youth and businesses with an decent income.
“Guest house owners assist in all community activities, donating funds to schools, school events, island community events, and even to efforts to keep the whole island clean. This is all made possible because of guest houses,” he added.
After previously expressing a reluctance to promote the guest house tourism model for fear of damaging the country’s luxury resort brand, the new guest house policy is designed to make the traditional one island/one resort model accessible to small and medium enterprises – with the government’s PR wing, the MMPRC, taking a lead role.
Raznee called on the government to further facilitate the running of guest houses in all islands, suggesting that it could handle promotional activities as long as permits for the businesses were approved.
The group will work to protect the rights of guest house owners and employees from all over the Maldives and to promote local tourism in international markets, he continued.
Raznee noted that, although members of the association are currently all from Maafushi, they are now in the process of contacting and inviting guest house owners from across the country to join the association.
Guest House Islands
The recently launched guest house island project will begin begin with the development of the uninhabited ‘Thumburi’ island in Laamu atoll into a 2000 bed resort.
According to promotional material, the guest house island concept – endorsed by industry groups – aims to “responsibly” diversify the tourism industry without encroaching on inhabited islands.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has previously explained the benefits of the policy – part of the Progressive Party of Maldives presidential election manifesto.
“It is a huge infrastructure investment to build a tourist resort. It becomes an expensive place to go to when they invest in water set-ups, sewerage systems – and all before building rooms,” Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb explained to Minivan News during an interview in January.
Adeeb stated then that the Malé Water and Sewerage Company will set up water and sewerage, and electricity systems in guest house islands, after which plots of land from the island will be given to different individual businessmen.
“The thing is, we just don’t talk about guesthouses so much. From a marketing perspective, we have positioned the Maldives as a high-end destination. A-category guests will continue coming for a long as we market the country as an A-category destination. Guests for B,C,D and E categories are something we automatically get,” said Adeeb.
He added, however, that the government supports the running of guest houses even though it will not promote them in international markets.
Some leaders in the industry have also expressed similar concerns regarding the destination’s brand, while the sector’s capacity has tripled in the past six years.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile criticised the government’s launching of guest house islands, with former President Mohamed Nasheed last week suggesting that guest house islands would not benefit locals, describing them as a threat to the success of guest houses in inhabited islands.
In April, the MDP-dominated Addu City Council passed a resolution to create an ‘Addu Guest House Venture’ which will develop and expand the guest house tourism industry within the city under the guidance of a designated promotion board.