The Adhaalath Party has complained that tourists have been wearing improper clothing and consuming alcohol on Hulhumale’ beach in public, and that the area was becoming “a place where Maldivian families cannot visit.”
The sale and consumption of alcohol is banned on inhabited islands. Resorts – and the airport hotel at Hulhule’ – are classified as ‘uninhabited’. As a result, the hedonistic concept of Western resort tourism has been able to peacefully coexist with the more conservative Islamic population on local islands. But the promotion of mid-market ‘guest house’ tourism on inhabited islands such as Hulhumale’ blurs the separation between the two.
“People who own beach front houses have developed guest houses in the area, and as a result tourists coming to the guest houses have started to use the Hulhumale’ beach they would aresort beach,’’ said the Adhaalath Party in statement. “They have been in the beach wearing clothes that do not properly cover their body, and are swimming likewise.’’
The Adhaalath Party cited “a reliable source” as claiming that tourists have been “putting up umbrellas and consuming alcohol under them on Hulhumale’ beach.”
The Party said that such things “should not occur on any of the inhabited islands of the Maldives.”
“It is not permissible under the law, religion or on social grounds,’’ said the party. ‘’It violates many rights of the Maldivians who visits the beach, when they see nudity and alcohol consumption.”
The party also said that it was “a serious issue” and that the concerned authorities should try and resolve.
Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim, acknowledged that such occurrences would be a challenge for mid-market tourism in the Maldives.
“The way it is currently structured is that alcohol is banned and there is a dress code for inhabited islands. Unless the regulations are changed – and I’m not saying they should be relaxed – tourist areas will need to be separated from local areas. In Male’ people cannot drink alcohol openly and nobody wears bikinis – it isn’t a problem.”
Ibrahim suggested that unless there were demarcated tourist areas, “there will always be these kinds of issues. It’s not an Adhaalath party issue or necessarily a religious issue – Western tourist dress is very different from traditional Maldivian dress.”
Separate tourist areas on inhabited islands would also be for the benefit of tourists’ privacy, he suggested. “They should be able to have a holiday in the Maldives, but they need privacy.”
Tourists, he agreed, should also be made more aware of Maldivian cultural traditions.
A UK national who lived in Hulhumale’ for a year until recently said she had not heard of foreigners living in Hulhumale’ using the beach in such a manner. But there were many new boutique hotel and guest house developments being constructed along the beach and there had been, she said, one instance of police being called after several tourists were seeing wearing bikinis “on a quiet corner of the beach.”
“Two foreign girls were also reported to police for wearing bikinis on the beach, but when police arrived they were wearing boardshorts and shirts,” she said.