Maldives wins Seven Star Global Luxury Awards

The Maldives has won two prizes at this year’s Seven Star Global Luxury Awards, winning best a destination as well as a special achievement honour for Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Nominated alongside destinations including the Bahamas, Fiji, the Seychelles, Italy, and Mexico, the Maldives was named best destination for the second year running.

Meanwhile, the ‘Outstanding Achievement in Tourism Award’ again went to the Maldives’ tourism minister for having overseen the arrival of one million tourists last year for the first time in the country’s history.

“The ‘Seven Star Destination Winner’ award belongs to the tourism industry partners of Maldives who have been working hard to develop the industry and maintain high level standards,” said Adeeb.

The seven star awards are regarded as the most exclusive international luxury award for the hospitality industry, recognising extraordinary achievements by bestowing upon winners the Signum Virtutis – a seal of excellence for all prospective guests.

After being nominated by Seven Star’s expert panel, industry professionals as well as the public voted for the winners, who received their prize at an award ceremony held at the Chateau Spa & Organic Wellness Resort in Malaysia on Saturday (June 14).

Over 1.1 million tourists visited the Maldives in 2013, a milestone achieved one year behind the government’s original plans after political turmoil temporarily deterred visitors during 2012.

Recent statistics have shown that the industry – directly responsible for 29 percent of GDP – continues to grow, with arrivals up by 11.2 percent based on the same period in 2013.

After developing primarily as a destination for European tourists, the recent expansion of the industry has been heavily reliant on the explosion of the Chinese market – which grew from around 6 percent of arrivals in 2008 to over 26 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Despite moves to expand the mid-market tourism product in the country, the luxury single island resort model continues to dominate over hotels, guest houses and safari vessel options – making up nearly 80 percent of the industry’s bed capacity.

Adeeb has previously explained that the image of the country as a high-end destination was vital in order to attract “A-category” guests, with lower-end facilities subsequently benefitting from the luxury image.

The government is currently considering expansion plans to accommodate the arrival of five millions tourists at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, and has recently reached out to new markets in Australia.

A survey conducted by the Tourism Ministry earlier this year found that 98 percent of tourists would recommend the Maldives as a holiday destination to others.


Six hundred flats awarded to police and military

Government authorities have awarded 600 apartments to Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) personnel this week, including to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and senior police officers.

The housing development projects – providing 300 apartments for MPS, and 300 for MNDF officers – are being jointly managed by the government-owned Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in conjunction with the Police Cooperative Society (POLCO) and the MNDF co-operative SIFCO.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has described the awards as a continuation of the patronage policies that prevailed under the 30 year autocracy of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Under the MPS’s MVR580 million (US$37.6 million) ‘Blue’s Housing Project’ 210 three-bedroom and 90 two-bedroom apartments will be built.

The housing scheme was described as being important for the maintenance of the police force’s welfare by Commissioner Riyaz during the project’s foundation laying ceremony in March. Acting Home Minister Ahmed Shafeeu presented recipients with the official documents yesterday (September 2).

Apartments were awarded to officers with at least 20 years of service and based on a points system used in other housing schemes, Chief Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz told local media.

The awarding of flats marks the beginning of the POLCO project, which is seeking private investment for a further 150 apartments, said Commissioner Riyaz during Monday’s ceremony.

Last month, 50 apartments on Hulhumale’ were handed over to police officers by President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who expressed hope that more housing would be made available exclusively for police and military officers.

Since the controversial transfer of presidential power involving elements of the police force, 1000 officers have been promoted and 110 new officers were hired. More recruits have been sought for a “special constabulary” reserve force, a loan scheme has been established for officers, and arrangements have been made for officers and their families to receive cheap accommodations and medical treatment in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives Police Service had not responded to Minivan News’ enquiries at time of press.

MNDF flats

Meanwhile, the government has re-started construction of 300 housing units on Hulhumale’, specifically for MNDF officers.

President Waheed, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, and senior MNDF officials laid the foundation stone for the apartment complex during a ceremony held on Hulhumale’ yesterday.

The apartments will be given to female officers who had not been previously awarded housing units, as well as to retired officers, the MNDF told local media.

Once constructed, the housing units would provide MNDF personnel and their families “adequate accommodation” as many are currently “living under a degree of hardship, having to rent their living spaces,” Waheed said during yesterday’s ceremony. Nazim added that the project would provide facilities such as playgrounds, a swimming pool, and a gym for residents.

President Waheed also awarded 50 apartments to MNDF personnel and their families last month, although seven of these flats had yet to be assigned.

Waheed noted during yesterday’s ceremony that the provision of shelter for military personnel was not an act of kindness, but rather a government obligation.

“The development and welfare of personnel should be improved in accordance with financial capability of the government, and the flats awarded today provides evidence of that fact,” Defence Minister Nazim stated at the time.

In April 2012, MNDF officers were given two years of allowances in a lump sum, which amounted to MVR 150 million (US$10 million) for the institution.

The Maldives National Defence Force was also not responding to enquiries at time of press.

“Patronage” continues: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) believes the award of 600 housing units to MNDF and MPS officers is a continuation of the patronage system established during former President Maumoon Gayoom’s 30-year autocratic rule.

“In the light of extensive exposes, such ‘patronage’ is familiar to voters from the single party dictatorship of Gayoom and I believe they will simply say to each other ‘I told you so’,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today (September 3).

The MDP previously raised concerns about whether the already constructed flats – which it contends forms part of the “Veshi Fahi” Male’ (decongestion) project launched under the previous government in 2011 – were being given to the “needy” and most deserving.

Ghafoor said it was “very concerning” that police should be given flats exclusively, to the detriment of teachers, doctors and other civilians. He also questioned how officers themselves had been selected for the process.

While some of the officers may have deserved the housing, there was concern that some officers involved in last year’s mutiny had been rewarded with flats, claimed Ghafoor.

Last month, President Waheed requested parliament approval to obtain a US$29.4 million loan from the Bank of Ceylon to finance the government’s budget and manage cash flow.

The Ministry of Finance and Treasury was seeking to secure the loan as a way to “enforce” the 2013 budget approved by parliament, stated a letter from the President’s Office read during a parliament session held on August 13.