Authorities hail Maldives World Tourism Awards ceremony as industry “milestone”

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.

MICE tourism

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.

Eventful past

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.


Maldives outlines key objectives for SAARC Paradise Island health talks

Working papers on the need for more regional training of medical staff, as well as overcoming nutrition, sanitation and efficiency issues will be presented to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) by the Maldives Health Ministry this week.

With a meeting of SAARC health ministers and secretaries taking place at the Maldives’ Paradise island Resort between Tuesday April 10 to Thursday April 12, local media reports that providing greater opportunities for medical training across South Asia is seen as a key focus for the country’s authorities.  A total of four working papers will be presented by Maldives health authorities during the talks.

The Ministry of Health and Family has stated that representatives from all SAARC members nations with the exception of Pakistan and Afghanistan will be in attendance at the talks.


French tourist found dead near Paradise Island Resort

A French tourist, identified as 49 year-old Alan Marshall, has been found dead near Paradise Island Resort this morning.

Marshall went missing during a late afternoon swim on January 7.

Marshall was vacationing on Club Med Kanifinolhu resort with his wife, daughter and son-in-law since last week. The family was due to leave the Maldives on January 12.

Kahifinolhu General Affairs Manager Abdu Samad said the victim had been snorkeling off the northern end of Kanifinolhu when he went missing around 4:30 pm. The family immediately reported him to resort staff who launched an investigation with divers.

Police were informed within one hour of Marshall’s disappearance. According to Samad, the search continued through the night until Marshall was found this morning within 30 meters of Paradise Island.

No details have yet been released as to the cause of death. However, police officials today said there was no cause for suspicion of foul play.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said police would “try to find out as much as possible about what happened” during their investigation.

“We have never had an issue with that area of our reef,” said Samad. “It is narrow and there can be a strong current but he was swimming during low tide. We can’t understand what happened.”

According to Samad, Marshall’s son-in-law had spoken with him in the water prior to returning to shore. On the beach, Marshall’s wife inquired after her husband’s whereabouts. Unable to see him, they alerted the resort.

Samad noted that Marshall had said he could swim upon arriving at the resort, however his family confirmed that he had a weak arm. “The investigation will look into any medications he may have been taking,” Samad said.

Marshall’s body has been moved to a mortuary on Male’. Samad expects the investigation to be concluded today, and that the resort is currently arranging to transport the family and the body to Sri Lanka. “There they can arrange for a proper autopsy or a cremation. We are also looking into their transport back to France,” Samad said.