President Yameen to travel to China

President Abdula Yameen is to travel to China on June 11 to visit the China-South Asia exposition and the Kunming import and export fair, local media report.

The president is to give a keynote speech at the joint-opening of the two fairs.

Leaders of the eight SAARC countries and Saudi Arabia will attend the fairs, Haveeru has said.

The opposition has planned a mass protest for June 12 over the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The Maldives will hold a second investment forum in China’s capital Beijing in September.

“Beijing will be a perfect place for Maldivian businesses to promote their businesses and networking,” minister Mohamed Saeed said in a tweet in late May.



Maldives to hold a second investment forum in China

The Maldives will hold a second investment forum in China’s capital Beijing in September, the economic development minister has said.

“Beijing will be a perfect place for Maldivian businesses to promote their businesses and networking,” minister Mohamed Saeed said in a tweet.

The first investment forum was held in Singapore in April 2014.

At the time, President Abdulla Yameen had sought investors for the ‘I-havan’ project to develop a port in the north, oil exploration, the development of Hulhumale and relocation of the business port to Thilafushi Island, and the development of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

In November 2014, the president declared a foreign policy shift to the East, after denouncing “Western colonial powers.”

The China and Maldives have signed several MOU’s to increase cooperation in the military and health sectors, and the Maldives is now a partner in China’s maritime silk route.

Chinese experts are currently conducting a feasibility study for a bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé.


Seismic survey underway for Malé – Hulhulé bridge

A Chinese team of scientists is conducting a seismic survey of the ocean basin between capital Malé and the airport island for a planned bridge.

Housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizzu last week said the bridge will run from Malé’s surf point, Raalhugandu, to the southwest corner of Hulhulé island’s airport runway.

The Chinese team is to drill 29 boreholes, 59 meters deep, in the ocean basin to see if it can hold the bridge’s foundation pillars.

Designs for the six-lane bridge is expected to be completed by the end of June this year, the government has announced.

China has previously said it would ‘favorably consider financing’ the bridge if the design proves feasible, while President Xi Jinping said he hoped the government would call the bridge “the China-Maldives friendship bridge”.

It is expected to cost between US$100million to US$150million.

Construction of the Malé–Hulhulé Bridge, first slated to begin in 2014, will now start by the end of this year, and will be completed within two years.

The bridge, a key campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen, will also connect Malé to its suburb Hulhumalé, an artificial island located behind Hulhulé and connected by a short causeway.

In March, 227 hectares of land were reclaimed in Hulhumalé for a planned ‘Youth City.’


Chinese ambassador assures assistance for police

Chinese ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Fukang, has assured assistance from the Chinese government to the Maldives Police Service.

In a meeting on Monday night with 20 police officers selected for a 20-day training programme in China, the ambassador said several training programmes for Maldivian police officers will be arranged in China.

The present trip is the second programme carried out under the ‘seminar for police officers of the Maldives’.

The training programmes were agreed upon during Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Maldives last year, he said, adding that the close relations between the Maldives and China is friendly and strong.

He noted that China has also provided 150 motorcycles to police.

Police commissioner Hussain Waheed meanwhile thanked the ambassador for Chinese assistance, which he said is easing police efforts to ensure public order and security.

The 20 senior officers meanwhile departed yesterday for the 20-day conference at the Yunan police officers academy, during which they will be provided information about police leadership, management, combat and command.

The police officers will also visit various police stations in China and attend information sessions.

A police team visited China last year for a similar seminar and training programme.


Tourist arrivals reach record high in February

Tourist arrivals reached an all-time record level for a single month with 120,468 visitors in February, the Ministry of Tourism has revealed.

Arrivals in February was 8.8 percent higher than the same period last year, which was “a significant improvement compared to the negative growth (-7.8 percent) registered in January 2015,” the tourism ministry observed in a statement on Thursday (March 19).

“With this boost, the total arrivals at end February 2015 was 217,541, an increase of +0.7 percent compared with the 216,001 tourists that visited during the same period of 2014,” the ministry noted.

The occupancy rate meanwhile declined by 4.8 percent this year, with an average occupancy rate of 80.8 percent. The average duration of stay was six days.

After falling 12.2 percent in December and 33.1 percent in January, Chinese arrivals bounced back in February with a 30.5 growth compared to February 2014.

A total of 43,349 Chinese tourists visited the Maldives last month.

At a press conference last week, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb suggested that Chinese visitors increased sharply as the Chinese New Year was on February 13.

Adeeb noted that overall arrivals growth was at about one percent compared to the first two months of 2014.

“So our travel trends is not falling. The past month was a very profitable month,” he said.

However, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) revealed earlier this month that revenue collection was 17.6 percent below forecasts due to “the decrease in tourism related revenues by 17 percent as tourist arrivals did not meet expectations.”

MIRA also revealed that US$2.2 million was collected last month as airport service charge, compared to US$2.3 million in February 2014.

However, Adeeb said income from Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) for February would be collected in March, and would reflect the arrivals hike.

Referring to travel alerts issued by the UK in the wake of political unrest sparked by the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22, Adeeb noted that tourists were only advised to avoid Malé due to demonstrations.

Asked if arrivals could decline in March due to the ongoing political crisis, Adeeb said the tourism ministry has been monitoring booking cancellations.

“Our monitoring shows there have been no booking cancelations in March,” he said, adding that he expected arrivals to remain unchanged from March 2014.

Condemning calls for tourism boycott, Adeeb said the government was countering the social media campaign by opposition supporters through marketing efforts by PR firms.

Adeeb suggested the tourism boycott campaign would not have “much of an impact.”

Regional markets

Europe retained top spot as the largest regional source market for tourist arrivals with a 49.3 percent market share in 2015.

However, with 107,263 visitors so far this year, total arrivals from Europe registered a marginal decline of 0.8 percent.

European arrivals in February declined by 1.9 percent compared to the same period last year on the back of a steep 53.4 percent decline in arrivals from Russia.

However, arrivals from the United Kingdom and Germany increased by 10.6 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively. The number of Italian tourists also grew by 10.3 percent compared to February 2014.

Total arrivals from Western Europe declined by 2.9 percent due to a fall of 15.5 percent in arrivals from France, which the tourism ministry said has been posting negative growth since July 2014.

In terms of individual markets, China remains the largest source market with a 29.3 percent market share, followed by Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

Both the national carrier Maldivian Airlines and Mega Maldives launched direct weekly flights to Chinese cities during February.

The Maldives Marketing and Tourism Development Corporation (MMPRC) also conducted roadshows in three Indian cities last month to promote the Maldives as a destination for Indian tourists.

With 4,235 visitors, arrivals from India grew by 17.8 percent in February with a market share of 3.7 percent.

“During the last two months of 2015, while important markets such as Russia, and Japan registered declines of -43.9 percent and -0.6 percent respectively, significant increases were recorded from Denmark (+82.8 percent), United Arab Emirates (+47.9 percent), Brazil (+44.6 percent), Spain (+40 percent) and Romania (+33.9 percent) at the end of the period,” the ministry noted.

At the end of February, the Maldives had 308 registered establishments in operation with a bed capacity of 27,670.

“The operational capacity included 106 resorts with 23,247 beds, 15 hotels with 1,508 beds, 106 guest houses with 1,568 beds and 81 safari vessels with 1,367 beds,” the ministry revealed.

“The total tourist bed nights of these operational establishments at the end of the period was 1,313,259 which was a drop (-3.7 percent) compared with the same period of 2014.”

Related to this story

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Indian Prime Minister Modi cancels Maldives trip

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has dropped the Maldives from an upcoming tour of Indian Ocean neighbours.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced in a statement yesterday that the prime minister would visit Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka from March 10 to 14, but gave no explanation for the omission of Maldives from the itinerary.

The cancellation comes amidst nightly anti-government protests and heightened tension sparked by the arrest and prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement yesterday that the prime minister’s visit “has been postponed to a later date by mutual agreement.”

“The dates for the visit were being discussed between the Maldives and India and both countries have decided to postpone the visit to a later date to give more time for both countries to prepare well for the visit. New dates will be announced once finalised between the two countries,” reads the statement.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali insisted that there was “no connection between Nasheed’s trial” and the postponement.

However, President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu’ told the Associated Press (AP) that Maldives had been on Modi’s itinerary and the country had made extensive preparations for the maiden visit.

Mundhu said the Indian government informed the Maldives the visit was cancelled because the “local environment is not conducive.”

“He says India was not more specific,” AP reported.

Local media had reported last month that Modi was due to visit the Maldives on March 15 during the regional tour whilst Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon announced the trip following a meeting in New Delhi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has welcomed the prime minister’s decision, characterising the cancellation as “a clear sign of Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to democracy and stability in the Maldives.”

“The people of the Maldives will always welcome the Prime Minister of India to the Maldives. The MDP regrets the authoritarian actions and confrontational nature of President [Abdulla] Yameen that has resulted in the Indian PM Modi cancelling his first visit to the Maldives,” said Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“The MDP has always believed in strong regional partnerships to ensure stability and security of the Indian Ocean. India has been our closest friend, and we hope that Yameen takes swift action to restore the Maldives-India relationship.”

Domestic issues

Indian media reported diplomatic sources as saying that the Indian government did not want to be seen “involved in domestic issues” of the Maldives.

“Sources said the government was taken by surprise over the treatment of former President Mohammad Nasheed, who was arrested and charged with treason and roughed up by the police on the way to court,” reported The Hindu newspaper.

A day after his arrest, Nasheed appeared in court for the first hearing of his trial on terrorism charges with his arm in a makeshift sling after police manhandled and dragged the opposition leader into the court building when he attempted to speak to reporters.

The incident prompted official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, to express concern over the developments, “including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed,”

“But our concerns haven’t been heeded, and in this situation it makes little sense for the Prime Minister to visit,” a senior Indian official told The Telegraph.

“His trip would be pitched by the Male government as an endorsement of its policies.”

Shortly after Nasheed’s arrest on February 22, the Maldives foreign ministry tweeted: “The impending visit of PM Modi is a clear reflection of the warm friendship between India and President Yameen’s Government – FM Dunya.”

The Telegraph meanwhile quoted a second Indian official as suggesting a Chinese role in the recent developments.

“Without a concrete commitment from the Chinese, there is no way the Maldives would take on India the way they have,” the official was quoted as saying.

“I’m not saying the Chinese are orchestrating this, not at all, but the Maldives government is using China’s support to challenge us.”

Asked at a regular press conference on February 25 about China’s view on the situation, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Spokesperson Hong Lei said the issue was “a domestic matter of the Maldives.”

“China upholds the principle of non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs. We believe the Maldivian side can deal with its domestic affairs properly,” he said.

Foreign Minister Dunya had meanwhile dismissed statements expressing concern with Nasheed’s prosecution by the Commonwealth, India, Canada, UN and the EU.

“The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” she declared.

In his address to the nation on the occasion of Republic Day (November 11) last year, President Yameen slammed “Western colonial powers” and declared his administration was “looking East” towards China.

Related to this story:

Asking Maldives to abide by commitments “not undue interference,” says UK High Commissioner

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

Nasheed calls for Indian protection in state of emergency

Chinese documents show silk route was discussed with India: Foreign ministry


Tourist arrivals decline in January as Chinese arrivals slow down

Tourist arrivals to the Maldives in January 2015 declined by -7.8 percent compared to the same period last year, the Ministry of Tourism has revealed.

Arrivals in January stood at 97,073 visitors, down from 105,296 visitors in January 2014, according to monthly statistics from the tourism ministry.

“This was the fourth consecutive month where a negative growth was recorded in tourist arrivals to the country,” the ministry observed in a statement last week.

Consequently, the occupancy rate fell from 82.5 percent in January 2014 to 73.9 percent last month.

“However, the average duration of stay remained uniform at January 2014 level with 6.5 days, this however was an increase compared with the 6.1 days at the end of December 2014,” the ministry noted.

In contrast to the negative growth recorded last month, tourist arrivals grew by 18.5 percent in January 2014.

Tourist arrivals also registered negative growth in November (-5.1 percent) and December (-1.2 percent) last year on the back of a steep decline in arrivals from Russia and Western Europe as well as Asia and Pacific markets.

The number of Russian tourists declined by 44.7 percent in December 2014 compared to the same period the previous year.

Arrivals from China and Japan in December meanwhile dropped by 12.2 percent and 11.8 percent respectively.

Last month, industry insiders expressed concern that the Maldives could become an overpriced destination with the introduction of new taxes.

While the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) was hiked from 8 to 12 percent in November 2014, the government announced that a US$6 per day ‘green tax’ would be imposed on tourists from November 2015 onward.

“The green tax will definitely have an impact. It is (already) becoming too expensive to go to the top resorts because of all the service charges and taxes,” Shafraz Fazley, managing director of Viluxur Holidays told travel website TTG Asia.

Chinese market

In a phenomenon that caught many industry experts by surprise, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives tripled from about 100,000 in 2010 to more than 300,000 last year.

In 2014, Chinese tourists accounted for nearly one-third of arrivals with a 30% market share, representing the single biggest source market for tourists to the Maldives.

A total of 363,626 Chinese tourists visited the Maldives in 2014, up 9.6 percent from the previous year, which saw 331,719 arrivals.

However, during 2014, the annual growth rate of Chinese tourist arrivals slowed from 20 percent at the end of June to 9 percent by the end of December.

“Arrivals to the Maldives from China started slowing down during mid-2014 and negative growths were registered since August that year,” the tourism ministry explained.

“January 2015 was recorded as the worst performed month for the Chinese market to the Maldives so far, with a strong negative growth of 33.1 percent. China being the number one market to the Maldives, the negative growth registered from the market was reflected in the total arrivals to the country.”

Meanwhile, according to the tourism ministry’s visitor survey for 2014, less than 10 percent of Chinese tourists were repeat visitors.

In contrast, the survey found that more than 25 percent of British, Italian and German tourists visited the Maldives between two to 10 times.


With the decline in arrivals from China, Europe has regained top spot as the largest regional source market for tourists, increasing its market share from 43.9 percent at the end of December to 54.1 percent in January.

A total of 52,545 visitors were recorded from European countries, representing a marginal growth rate of 0.5 percent compared to January 2014.

In 2014, the annual growth rate of tourist arrivals from Europe flatlined to 0.4 percent.

However, with Chinese arrivals representing more than a quarter of visitors, total arrivals during the year reached the government’s target of 1.2 million visitors.

In terms of individual markets in January 2015, Italy was the second largest source market with an 8.3 percent market share, followed by the UK with 7.4 percent, Germany with 7.3 percent, and Russia with 6 percent.

However, Russia was the worst performing market during January, the ministry noted, registering negative growth of 38 percent.

Registered establishments

In January, the Maldives had a total of 529 registered tourist facilities with a total bed capacity of 32,087, including 112 resorts (24,151 beds), 19 hotels (1,704 beds), 231 guesthouses (3,397 beds) and 167 safari vessels (2,835 beds), according to the tourism ministry.

However, a total of 302 establishments (27,520 beds) were operational during the month, the ministry revealed.

“Operational capacity included 106 resorts with 23,247 beds, 15 hotels with 1,468 beds, 107 guest houses with 1,569 beds and 74 safari vessels with 1,236 beds,” the ministry’s statistics showed.

“The total tourist bed nights of these operational establishments in January 2015 was 630,840 which was a drop (-7.8%) compared with that of January 2014.”

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Tourist police stationed at areas frequented by tourists in Malé

The Maldives Police Services (MPS) have stationed tourist police officers at areas frequented by the tourists in Malé.

“Numerous police officers are stationed in different areas of Malé for when the tourists disembark in Malé,” read a police statement today. “As the republic square and artificial beach are frequently visited by tourists, police presence will be more prominent in these areas.”

The police said they would take extra measures to protect tourists from a passenger liner currently docked in the Malé harbor.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon met with Chinese Ambassador Wang Fukang in order to discuss the safety and security of Chinese tourists in the Maldives.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from the Maldivian Foreign Service and the embassy of China, along with representatives from the tourism ministry, the immigration department, the police, the Maldives Customs Service, as well as relevant tourism industry groups.

In September 2014, a Chinese tourist hit by speeding motorbike on Medhuziyaarai Magu died while undergoing treatment in Sri Lanka.


Free trade feasibility talks begin with Chinese delegates

The Maldives government has started technical discussions with China regarding the feasibility of a free trade agreement between the two nations.

At a meeting held at the Ministry of Economic Development today (February 4), a technical committee consisting of experts from both countries engaged in discussions over what would be the Maldives’ first free trade agreement with a single country.

Haveeru reported economic development minister Mohamed Saeed as saying that the committee is tasked with determining the feasibility of such an agreement and identifying any potential difficulties.

“The truth is we want to set up the free trade agreement as soon as possible,” he told the paper.

He said the two main reasons in pursuing a free trade agreement with China were duty-free exports of fisheries products, and an increase in air travel between the countries which will bring more Chinese tourists to the Maldives.

Fish accounts for 98 percent of the Maldives’ exports, while Chinese tourists make up 30 percent of all visitors to the Indian Ocean nation.

Speaking with Minivan News today, former Economic Development Minister Mahmoud Razee said that free-trade is most advantageous when taken up by nations at the same level of development, with a demand for goods exported by both countries.

“Maldivian fisheries products are mainly imported by European countries, Japan, and America. The question is whether China imports enough fisheries products from the Maldives,” he said.

Razee also said noted that there was a potential risk of  China ‘dumping’ low quality and undesirable goods into the Maldivian economy.

Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Shareef has previously said that free trade talks were initiated by the Maldives, and that China has taken a flexible approach with regards to the final agreement.

Last year, President Abdulla Yameen declared a foreign policy shift to the East, slamming the European Union after regulations resulted in the non-renewal of the Maldives’ preferential trade partner status.

The government’s decision to engage in free-trade with China was revealed in December 2014 after the cabinet’s economic council visited China to hold discussions on Chinese-assisted projects in the Maldives.

“The biggest advantage of the free trade will go towards fishermen. With free trade, the 12 percent export duty will be gone, thus the 12 percent becomes profit for fishermen,” said fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee at the time.

The cabinet members’ visit to Beijing in December also saw the Maldives officially sign up to the Maritime Silk Road project, which will provide a trade route between China and east coast of Africa and the Mediterranean.

China currently has free trade agreements with eight countries – including Pakistan, Costa Rica, Peru, and New Zealand – as well as a regional agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

The Maldives is currently a member of the South Asian Free Trade Area, along with its fellow SAARC nations.

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