The Maldives government has announced its intention to unveil the country’s fourth official tourism master plan on September 27 to coincide with this year’s World Tourism Day, according to local media reports.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb last week declared that the final draft of the master plan would be unveiled by the president of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) during a visit next month.
Adheeb said the five year scope of the plan was expected to emphasise strengthening tourism infrastructure across the country, while also implementing zones outlining specific types of development.
Existing aims outlined under previous master plans that were yet to be fully realised would also be included in the new document, the minister told local media.
Speaking previously to Minivan News, former Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal has said the master plan was anticipated to include developments such as the expansion of biospheres and other “value-adding” concepts.
“We are working on the fourth tourism master plan in line with groups like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank to focus on a destination strategy,” he said late last year.
The former deputy minister – dismissed by the government in June after deciding to back a rival candidate to President Dr Mohamed Waheed in the upcoming election – had spoken in recent months of a number of key aims to be included in the plan, including event tourism and strengthening the fledgling guest house sector.
The potential for expanding mid-market tourism in the Maldives through the “niche” guesthouse segment emerged as an early election issue this year after senior opposition and government figures clashed over how best the country’s inhabited islands might profit from visitors.
While unable to outline the exact scope of the new master plan, Maleeh also previously pointed to President Waheed’s announcement to make the Maldives the world’s largest marine reserve within the next five years as a commitment that could prove particularly beneficial to tourism.
“Since the foundation of tourism 40 years ago, the environment has always been hugely important to the Maldives. After 40 years the country is still pristine making us very popular with tourists and we welcome any actions to encourage maintaining this,” he said.
Maleeh added that the foundation of marine parks and reserves in the country at destinations like Baa Atoll was already helping create a “premium destination within a destination”, adding further value to properties located in an area of strong natural interest.
Along with the potential benefits of operating as a marine reserve, he claimed that the country’s status of being a protected marine reserve would not itself impact on the type of tourism developments being sought in the Maldives.
These plans have included ambitious proposals such as the construction of five man-made islands to support leisure developments including a 19-hole golf course in the Maldives.
Maleeh claimed that he did not think these type of projects would be threatened by the Maldives protected reserve status, with developers still being required to work within existing environmental laws that impose several restrictions on the amount of development possible on each island.
The government meanwhile announced earlier this year that it would be moving ahead with plans to transform the Maldives into a biosphere reserve through the designation of zones across the country that would earmark land use for specific purposes such as tourism development or conservation.
Despite these commitments, the country’s first Marine National Park (MNP) in Noonu Atoll is yet to receive land that successive governments have agreed would be set aside for the project back in 2011.