Increasing density of resort development threatens key tourism appeal, warns former tourism minister

The cabinet has decided to increase the development density of resort islands from 20 percent to 30 percent, in a move tourism authorities of the former government have claimed will impact a key appeal of the Maldives’ destination.

In a statement, cabinet said ministers noted that “opportunities for commercial expansion were limited due to unavailability of land area to develop tourist facilities on leased-out spaces.”

“Members also agreed that, raising the land area limit for construction of tourist facilities, to meet market demand, would largely contribute to the prosperity of the island,” the statement read.

Former tourism minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa said “one of the resort owners behind the [February 7] coup” had pressured her to change the density regulations.

“I privately consulted foreign [resort] investors and the advice I got was not to change this, because the Maldives’ ‘islandness’, a key product feature, would be lost,” she told Minivan News.

“Thirty percent is a huge amount of land to developed as a built up area, and islandness is what makes the Maldives competitive,” she said.

Mohamed Nasheed’s government had debated and provisionally approved increasing the development density to 25 percent, Dr Zulfa said, “but that was before the industry feedback that this was not something to play around with.”

“I can categorically say this is something [resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader] Mr Gasim Ibrahim wanted for a long time. If you do an eyeball inspection of his properties already they more than 20 percent,” Dr Zulfa alleged. “I knew this would happen the moment the regime changed. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim, said the density increase would “allow some resorts to develop more facilities, entertainment and staff amenities.”

“It will give resort developers more flexibility,” he said. “We don’t think it will have an impact [on the competitiveness of the destination].”

Dr Zulfa has previously contended that pressure from several government-allied resort owners had led the new government to declare that 25 year resort island lease extensions could be paid in installments rather than upfront, a decision she claimed took US$135 million out of the budget overnight.

In March, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) said it had anticipated receiving a total of Rf375 million (US$24 million) for lease extensions, however due the government’s recent decision to accept resort island lease extension payments in installments, the  income received dropped to Rf23 million (US$1.5 million). The government has meanwhile said it has a budget deficit of US$155 million.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb was not responding to calls at time of press.


14 thoughts on “Increasing density of resort development threatens key tourism appeal, warns former tourism minister”

  1. I dont get it. Increasing land densities means more rooms in resorts. Increasing rooms in resorts means that more income for the tourist operators. Which basically will result in better pay for maldivian staff working in resorts, and increased income for the state. If the govt's income increases, then it can be used to provide better services to the general public.

    Does this mean Zulfa and MDP as a whole doesnt want this govt to receive increased revenues ?

    Doesnt this also mean that MDP is going to obstruct every single measure that this govt does, no matter what the harm it will cause to us ordinary citizens ?

    Calling for a boycott of Maldivian resorts is one thing, but this is now getting to be ridiculous. Why doesnt MDP just leave the Maldivian tourism industry alone !

  2. Gasim is a brat who is obsessed with wealth and power. What does he think? These are islands of every Maldivian, and he thinks that he can do whatever he wants with them. What an absurd thinking. He wants to increase his wealth at whatever expense to Maldivian citizens.

  3. The key issue here is two fold:
    a) is increasing it from 20-30% bad for the environment? I don't think so. "green-ness" depends on other things like waste, recycling, water...etc practises of hotels

    b) Ultimately it just lifts the ceiling - it doesn't mean all resorts have to build more than what is the 'right' level that customers would want. ultimately, the resort understands what their customers want - it's not the government's place to put these restrictions.

    although i am a supporter of MDP - this is not a bad policy by the baaghee govt.

  4. decreasing vegetation area of Maldivian resort islands will become a big problem, more construction become less natural it looks.
    Do things wisely, Maldives tourism industry is a Maldivian product its not a product of baaghee sarukaaruge.
    Don't change it because clients will not be happy of it.

  5. And calling for boycotts and building up the (false) image of us being in a military dictatorship is an extremely positive thing to do for the image of the country?

  6. MDP wants to interfere in each and every intiative this government take. If tourism prospers in Waheed's governments term, then it will look bad for MDP, hence they want to do everything in their power to cripple the tourism industry.

    It doesnt matter what the loss is to our country's citizens, or much revenue our citizens and Maldivian businesses lose, MDP it out to prove that Maldivian tourism industry will collapse unless the Maldives is ruled by MDP.

    To that end, MDP (Friends of Maldives, Farahanaaz Faisal in UK) are doing everything they can to harm the Maldives tourism industry and inflict maximum damage to the Maldivian tourism industry (spreading hyped up lies of massacres and imaginary atrocities occuring in our country).

    Wake up guys, if Maldivians dont stand against MDP's rampage to destroy the Maldives tourism industry image and the tourism industry as well, before we know it, our tourism industry will have collapsed.

  7. I do not have much knowledge about how this will impact market. But i am sure the lovely vegetation will cease to exist and the cosy untouched natural feel will diminish which now is a v unique feature in Maldives. Why not develop more resorts than destroying or reclaiming more of nature? Like how mdp tried.
    If the businessmen r let free they'll go wild, if without these restrictions. Specially these opportunist money minded corrupt businessmen unlike the genuine one's

  8. the Robinson Crusoe effect of Maldives resorts is a part of the tourism product enjoyed by many people. Even in much developed places like Australia such as Green Island does not allow vegetation clearing or buildings extruding above tree canopies. The tourism industry of Maldives is a high end market demand driven industry where tourists seek maximum vegetation and less build structures. If we target for low end tourism sector like in Rio we can have the whole island filled with rooms with a thin line of vegetation across beach.

  9. The 20% limit determined for built up area was decided way back in the 70's and without any back up support survey.
    Also the building height restricted at the tree top level has also similar set back.
    I often visualize a resort with a single 10 story building sitting in the middle of an island, with all the supportive facilities within the building and leaving the rest of the island to its natural conditions. Rooms high up overlooking the lagoon can give a birds eyeview of the lagoon and extended reefs ... sure the rooms can be very lux. and expensive.
    But ten some body has convinced a population that in order to be unique we must limit our resort atchitecture and designs .... what an economic crime ...

  10. This will allow moronic resort owners to build so much on their land that resorts will end up looking like city hotels.It would also mean cutting down of more trees impacting the environment.Not surprising that it's Gasim that wanted it. already Villa hotels are among the ugliest properties in the Maldives. this will definetly impact the brand image in a bad way.

  11. Increasing the density of rooms from 20 to 30 percent ? Thats like if you have 100 rooms, then we are going to add 10 more ! How horrifying ! How utterly horrifying !

    We should only have 1 room per resort. And that room should be sold for less than 200 dollars. That way less income will be available to people like Gasim and Champa.

    It doesnt matter if tourism revenue falls, we should preserve the Robinsom cruesoe effect.

    Besides I am against everything this govt does. However, if govt decided to give me a resort, then i would definitely build a 100 rooms in that resort. I only want good things to happen to me and my business. Good things shouldnt happen to others, i am against all such things. And i dont want other peoples business to grow and prosper, because i am that kind of guy who gets irritated when other people's businesses prosper.

  12. how about making it 100% built up area? means more income,more tax,more rooms,more of everything. and dont forget this is 100% maldives,

  13. The more they build on the resort islands, the less trees will be there. And soon, with the sea level rise which comes with climate change, or the next small Tsunami, all the resorts will be washed away by the ocean and there will be big erosion on the coastlines... Dont worry about the resorts which already exist - start to worry about your local islands please!

  14. Great initiative by the young minister Adheeb, who submitted the cabinet paper after consultations with industry. Now we are going to have more rooms , jobs, more Facilities for employees. Great stimulus to the industry.

    What did Zulfa know about the industry when she sent a letter to all the resorts to close the spa, Foriegn investors would be very happy. What does she know about the tourism? It was MU Maniks vision to make it 30, do Zulfa or anni has the guts to call MU a baghee? No , so shut ur big mouth as u all are history


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