Three Maldivian resorts have been named among the world’s top 25 hotels by TripAdvisor, but industry specialists have expressed concern over the new green tax and rising prices.
Gili Lankanfushi Maldives placed top in the recently announced Traveler’s Choice Awards, based upon the quantity and quality of reviews posted on the website, while two other Maldivian resorts – Cocoa Island and Constance Moofushi – ranked at number six and fifteen, respectively.
The survey by the world’s largest travel website acknowledged over 8,100 properties based on one year’s worth of reviews and opinions from its 315 million unique monthly visitors.
“We are very glad that three of our resorts got included as top hotels in the world,” said Maldives Association of Tourism Industry Secretary General Ahmed Nazeer.
Four other Maldivian locations were named as part of the top 25 hotels in the Asian region. Baros Maldives was awarded ninth place on the regional list, Soneva Fushi placed 13th, while LUX* Maldives and Komandhoo Maldives Resort earned 21st and 22nd, respectively.
Meanwhile, industry specialists have expressed concern that the Maldives might soon become an overpriced destination due to increasing taxes and service charges, with the latest levy taking the form of a US$6 green tax.
“The green tax will definitely have an impact,” said Shafraz Fazley, Managing Director of Viluxur Holidays to ttgasia.com. “It is (already) becoming too expensive to go to top resorts because of all the service charges and taxes.”
The US$6 green tax was announced in November last year with the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb saying that the revenue generated from the tax will go into managing waste from local resorts and other islands.
Rising arrivals, rising costs
The tax is part of new revenue raising measures outlined in the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget for 2015, which also includes the addition of ten resorts to the current 109 registered facilities. These measures are anticipated to raise MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) in revenue for the government.
The green tax will be introduced 11 months after the abolition of the US$8 per night bed tax, and one year after the hike in the Tourism Goods and Service Tax (T-GST) from 8 to 12 percent. Airport service tax was also raised from US$18 to US$25 in July 2014 for visitors leaving the country.
Maldives Association for Travel Agents and Tour Operators President Abdulla Ghiyas was reported as having told TTG that the resort contracts will be unaffected as the bed tax had been taken into account, though the opposition has previously called the levying of this and T-GST simultaneously as “double taxation” on the industry.
“Have a look at the TripAdvisor Forum,” Michelle Flake from Koamas Luxury Escapes told TTG. “I am sure people are moaning and saying it will be too expensive for them to come soon.”
After receiving more than one million tourists for the second consecutive year in 2014, the tourism ministry estimates that the Maldives will see 1.4 million tourist arrivals this year.
Speaking to Minivan News about the past year, however, Tourism Employee’s Association of Maldives Secretary General Mauroof Zakir said that, despite the increased arrivals, the tourism industry suffered as a whole in 2014.
“Total tourist arrivals have increased compared to the previous year. However, as arrivals from Europe and Russia decrease, less income is generated as the replacing Chinese visitors spend less and stay for lesser periods,” said Zakir.
Last year’s Maldives visitor survey in January 2014 appeared to confirm Zakir’s point, showing that Asian tourists stayed for shorter periods of 3 to 4 days while the average stay for European tourists was between 7 and 11 days.
According to the Tourism Yearbook 2014 – published by the tourism ministry – average duration of stay by tourists is declining, from 8.6 days in 2009 to 6.3 days in 2013.
The Chinese and Russian tourist markets are two of the fastest growing in the world, with arrivals increasing by an average of 54 and 10.7 percent, respectively, between 2009 and 2013.
Adeeb has acknowledged the negative impact of the falling Russian rouble on arrivals, saying that the Maldives must diversify its tourism markets as the international arena “heats up”.
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