Sale of Holiday Inn to be completed in November

The sale of the Holiday Inn business in Male’ to the Hong Kong-based Shangri-La group is to be completed by the end of November.

The current management were “working closely” with the new owners to “ensure a smooth transition”, said the hotel’s General Manager Michael Melzer.

Holiday Inn’s resort at Kandooma would be unaffected, he said.

The hotel will meanwhile be rebranded from the InterContinental Hotels Group’s mid-scale Holiday Inn brand once the hotel is handed to Shangri-La, presumably to the group’s business hotel brand Traders.

The landmark hotel was opened in September last year, the first international hotel chain to open in Male’.

Staff were informed in October of the decision by the owners, Male Hotel Associates, to sell the business to an international group. The Dhivehi Observer reported that the sum paid was US$42 million for the assets and business of the remainder of the building’s 27 year lease.

Despite opening to great fanfare the flagship Male’ hotel was quickly demonised through a series of cultural blunders, including advertising a BBQ and DJ during Friday prayers on the day of the lunar eclipse in January, but most notably its efforts to acquire a liquor license.

Liquor license denied

In November 2009 the Economic Development Ministry announced new regulations whereby individual liquor licences would be scrapped and instead issued to hotels on inhabited islands with more than 100 beds.

Adhil Saleem, state minister for economic development, confirmed in November that Holiday Inn had applied for a liquor licence, and the hotel quickly became a symbol for an anti-alcohol push by the Islamic Ministry and the government’s coalition partner, the Adhaalath Party, which appealed for no alcohol to be sold on inhabited islands.

Confusing matters, in December parliament voted 28-23 against a bill that would have outlawed the sale of alcohol on inhabited islands. Oddly, a number of MPs who argued vehemently for the bill then voted against it.

Among the MPs who opposed the legislation were Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed, Galolhu South MP Ahmed Mahlouf, Vili-Maafanu MP Ahmed Nihan, Mid-Henveiru MP Ali Azim, Villigili MP Mohamed Ramiz, Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy of the DRP and Maavashu MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abukaburu and Isdhoo MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim from the People’s Alliance.

The Economic Development Ministry meanwhile argued that lax monitoring of the liquor permits had resulted in a black market for alcohol in the capital Male’.

But, the Ministry’s revised regulations were withdrawn following public pressure before it could be enforced and were sent to a parliamentary committee for consultation.

Under the regulations, tourist hotels in inhabited islands with more than 100 beds would have been authorised to sell alcohol to foreigners, but the hotel bar was to not be visible from outside or to employ Maldivians.

In February, the matter came to a head with a series of protests against the legislation, and as the primary symbol of the new regulations, the Holiday Inn reportedly received a number of bomb threats.

State Minister for Islamic Affairs and Adhaalath party spokesman Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, one of the leaders of the protest, threatened to resign his post in the ministry along with other senior people if the government approved the regulation.

Sheikh Ilyas Hussain also spoke to the protesters, warning that the former government had been changed because it had “walked in the wrong path”.

If the new government also chose the wrong path, he warned, “we might have to work to change the government.”

Gauging public sentiment, the government withdrew the controversial regulations following a meeting attended by the Maldives Police Service, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), the Home Affairs Ministry, the Economic Development Ministry, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and several religious scholars.

At the same time the government did not reinstate the old liquor licensing system, resulting in burgeoning black market prices for the commodity – the street price for a bottle of blackmarket vodka wholesaled outside the country for US$6 rose from Rf 700 (US$54) to Rf 2000 (US$160) with the demise of the licensing system.

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said at the time that while there was scope for alcohol to be sold to non-Muslims in an Islamic state, alcohol was readily available to non-Muslims at resorts and the Hulhule Island Hotel (HIH) on the airport island.

“The tourism industry has sold alcohol [to non-Muslims] for a long time,” he explained. “But it is a concern to open bars in [wider Maldivian] society. Maldivians do not want to have bars near schools and mosques.”

Financial impact

The loss of potential liquor revenues drew speculation that the Holiday Inn would suffer financially.

Melzer said today that in his experience of managing the hotel for five months, “it has not affected us. We have very imaginative beverage menus that have been very successful, and there has not been a negative impact.”

The hotel was not in direct competition with the bar-equipped Hulhule Island Hotel (HIH), he said: “The main target of the hotel is corporate business and government travellers, and to a lesser extent the international wholesale market – particularly South Korea and Japan.”

The base business of the hotel was showing “very good progress” he said, with the main attraction “the high quality interior design, which is very luxurious and well received by international travellers from SE Asia and the Middle East. Another attraction is definitely the rooftop restaurant with its magnificent views and innovative dining concept.”

He acknowledged that one of the hotel’s key challenges “was attracting and retaining the right talent.”

“One of my areas of emphasis has been to localise positions,” he said, “but generally in the Maldives it is hard to attract local talent.”

Shangri-La, which already runs an upmarket resort property in Addu Atoll, has yet to announce its intentions for the rebranded hotel.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Holiday Inn property was being sold together with the business. The property itself will remain with the present owner of the premises.


14 thoughts on “Sale of Holiday Inn to be completed in November”

  1. It has not affected us?!?! What lies. This general manager is just scared of causing more political controversy around the hotel. Of course it affected you! That's why all this is happening. Because the government is not sincere about devolving power/ resources to the people!!!

    Silly silly people. Adhaalath need to be demolished before it destroyed our country!

  2. We need a life for our youth, hang outs, places to go and mix, everything that builds a healthy society. We do not need to fear and there will be more control of crimes and accessibility of those who succumb to "crimes" if we can have a society that mixes.

    Anni should stop trying to keep Adhalath and the Mullahs in grip by keeping them close...or keep them close but keep youth and the Maldivian people closer....In this way you have more control and say in what is going on...

    How narrow minded can Adalath and its followers be. Nasandhura had a bar for foreigners...No Maldivian went there to drink or were given drinks of alcohol.The more you try tp stop something (alcohol being drunk by Maldivians) the more is will happen. Take the black market trade away, you stop making people sin.

    Oh yes...that is a good argument. If an islamic woman's husband is having an affair, allow him to marry her as a second wife and sacrifice for love of heaven. If Maldivians are trading in secret, break the market by having bars for foreigners and then Maldivians will stop sinning and heaven waits for Adalath.

  3. not affected ??? how come. maybe for the hotel owner but what about the staffs loss coz alcohol ban that deprived us from an attractive service charge like other resorts and hotels in maldives. adhaalath should be abolished before maldives turns to hell.

  4. Amazing that HIH still retains an exclusivity on selling alcohol at vastly inflated prices - who benefits mostly from this mega profit centre?

  5. we should have a fresh seafood restaurant in new holiday inn, just serving good local produce from maldives.

  6. A very good business deal. Black money of a person who is a major player in embezzling millions of dollars in the biggest corruption case in Maldivian history becomes white. From where the funds originally came to form this partnership is a public secret. But returns from this sale will be part of his disclosed wealth. Long live Maldives!
    "The Gangsters Paradise"

  7. legalising alcohol

  8. @shaa
    not legalizing alcohol.

    Just let the foreigners have it through controlled official channels, stop giving business to a particular entity like HIH or even Holiday Inn, but even Nasandhura or Nalahiya and those who can manage it, let them have it and stop the black market trade that gives alcohol to Maldivians anyway....

    Besides you cant stop a Maldivian who wants to drink. They travel all the time and it is there for anyone who wants it....

  9. Nice old days when at Nasandura was served alchol only to foreners without any problem for us Maldivians.
    Old generation abide to our religion law.

  10. I'm a faranji but i don't drink, never have. This is a pretty big stereotype. Same as saying, no Maldivian drinks because they are Holy Muslims each one of them. Don't have anything against one who can drink and be merry, but I would not allow alcohol where it brings violence to the surface, such as where ppl are already oppressed, a little alcohol and the anger just comes out in certain communities.

    However, if you can drink and be happy, well done. I know some Maldivians who get drunk and I love them, they are happy and beautiful. I know others who get drunk and are nasty. It DEPENDS!

    The problem is not the alcohol so much as the underlying reasons behind why some get "violent" when drunk.

  11. Holiday Inn is perhaps selling this asset due to dull prospects (as they see) in Maldivian Economy.
    Foreign Travelers (Traders,Bankers,Investors,etc) who used to visit to Maldives (the frequency of such travelers) had decreased due to global economic crises, as well as the localized economic crisis mostly due to unstable political nature of the Country. The tourists who transit late night trips to distance Atoll Resort Hotels might as well had dropped as the travel agents or the Resort Hotels itself wouldn't want their clients to stay in a battle ground of protests and heavy security zones (which I believe is not the scenes those tourists are coming to witness, after spending thousands of dollars)

    The biggest threat to a practical democracy and a good economy is the theoretical democracy that some are trying to implement on this land.Now don't just jump into conclusion that I am against the peaceful, practical and acceptable way of life. Which is if you all may like worded as "democracy" but for me it is the a way of life where we have peace, tranquility, justice, respect and decency.

    I assume when the Holiday Inn Project was at planing stage they didn't envisioned such a bleak scenario of economic crises globally or even for that matter the political gridlock at Male' (The Capital City) that seems for foreign Investors all too damaging for their businesses especially when they operate on "the land of fear" right in the middle of the battle ground (Male'). Protests ( mostly led by ex-regime for their power hunger ambitions on the platform of a deceptive ideology)is one key element of the failings of our economic status as of today. Perhaps the new party (Shangri-La) taking-over this asset had done some serious long term forecasts and willing to take the risks keeping a positive approach in their forecasts on the political and economic situations in Male' and Maldives to somehow will get onto a real rebound as it is happening in other parts of the World (after the global economic crises).

    In both the scenarios the "Liquor license denied" idea being the cause for the end of Holiday Inn, Male' is not reality as depicted by the article itself [I have not seen JJ discussing the ideas of economy, protests happening right in front of the Hotel and heavy security zones established on and off the area, but a huge emphasis only on Liquor Licence] and by the following pro-liquor license comments on this page.

    Well, I'm not totally against the idea floated by the Government (on liquor) nor I am for that as either way the Maldivians who wants to consume liquor , they will and no one can stop it. How about the illegal drugs? It's still sold and consumed and the story still goes on. All these are evils of the society that needs personal level discipline and restraint (in reality) that will happen of course with some honest inputs from the society and authorities at large as well . These can only be achieved by "Purity of Faith" (Al-Iklas).

    Change is here but little had improved of the situation of this Country. However we should be practical in our expectations. Insha Allah this is going to get better and after all, all great changes takes some time to yield it's results (That is practicality in real world). Patience and constancy is what we need to practice and most importantly Trust in Allah (GOD Almighty).

    The world is not a place that will last forever, nor a single human will survive death. To Allah we all belong, And to Allah we all shall return.

    May Allah guide us all to the Truth.
    In Allah Almighty We Trust


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