The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has claimed the Maldives’ selection as host for the Indian Ocean World Travel Awards (WTA) ceremony next month is a “milestone” in the 40 year history of the nation’s holiday industry.
Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said the ceremony, which will take place at the Paradise Island Resort and Spa in North Male’ Atoll on May 12, paves the way for further high-profile events to be held in the Maldives in future.
Maleeh told Minivan News that hosting the WTA, described by the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) as the “Oscars” of the global tourism industry, would open up a wealth of opportunities for event hosting at resorts and other facilities in the country.
He added that the ceremony would send a message to the world that the country was able to provide meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) tourism in a luxury and private setting that was unique from other destinations.
“Over the past 40 years, we have been known as a honeymooners spot, a surf spot and a luxury holiday destination. This will add another area for the industry,” the deputy tourism minister said.
Maleeh said that with the MICE tourism segment last year valued as a trillion US Dollar business segment, securing even a small proportion of the market would be a welcome boost to the country’s tourism industry.
Arrivals to the country were found to have posted double-digit growth during the first quarter of 2013 over the same period last year.
The results were a notable improvement on arrivals recorded during the first three months of 2012, which were negatively impacted by global headlines focused on political turmoil following the controversial transfer of power that brought the current government to office in February the same year.
Considering the number of resorts with conference facilities already operating in the Maldives, Maleeh praised the potential for MICE tourism in the Maldives, despite adding that the industry was very much at a “starting point” in the country.
However, in addressing challenges such as logistics that have previously limited event hosting to areas surrounding Male’, Maleeh claimed that the emergence of a number of regional airports around the country would open up a wider number of properties and businesses to potentially benefit.
“Event-based tourism will also see growing amounts of business for local companies as well, such as for lighting specialists and performers,” he added.
Beyond next month’s ceremony, Maleeh said that senior representatives from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) were also scheduled to travel to the Maldives in September for a special panel discussion. The event was similarly anticipated to boost the country’s reputation for event hosting, according to the tourism ministry.
Outside of the Maldives resort industry, some local promotion groups have previously complained that challenges still remain in trying to bring high-profile events and entertainment to the wider country.
Back in November, 2012, a concert by Chris de Burgh – the singer/songwriter famed for the 1980′s global super-hit ‘Lady in Red’ – attracted 1500 people to Galolhu National Stadium in Male’.
Organisers claimed at the time the event was one of the largest shows of its kind held in the Maldives over the last decade, especially considering ongoing difficulties in securing international artists to play in the archipelago nation.
The team behind the event claimed the concert was therefore an important step towards paving the way for world famous artists to perform in the country.
Mohamed Shinan, event coordinator with local promotion company Think Advertising, said the Maldives has traditionally struggled to cover the fees of high-profile performers when trying to bring concerts to the Maldives.
However, Shinan said that organisers had been happy with the eventual turnout for the concert.
“Including the sizable audience in the standing section, we estimate some 1,500 people were in attendance, which is not bad for an artist like Chris de Burgh. Most young people only know him for the one song.”
Two months earlier, the organisers of the 2012 Hotel Asia Exhibition and International Culinary Challenge held at Male’s Dharubaaruge conference centre claimed they were at maximum capacity in terms of the number of regional and international exhibitors in attendance.
Husnie Rauf, Senior Manager of Maldives Exhibition and Conference Services (MECS), said the company had been “surprised” by the interest shown from exhibitors taking part in the annual show, which attempts to link the country’s secluded resort industry and local hotel trade with “world class” suppliers.
Over the last three years, the Maldives has played host to several high-profile regional and international events including the 17th SAARC Summit in Addu City, and the Hay Festival Maldives, held at the presidential retreat of Aarah back in October 2010.