Tourism key for community development, says government on World Tourism Day

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

The tourism industry holds the key for youth employment and community development said senior government figures as the Maldives celebrated World Tourism Day.

“I call upon Maldivian youth to enter the tourism sector with renewed courage,” said President Abdulla Yameen, pledging greater opportunities for young people within the sector.

“To this end, to increase income and job opportunities in the north, God willing a further five resorts will be put up for bidding during this year and awarded for development,” he continued.

The industry – which accounts for 25 percent of GDP – continues to grow rapidly based on just over one hundred island resorts currently in operation. Tourist arrivals increased by 11 percent between August 2013 and August 2014, numbering 806,000.

Attempts at community based tourism have expanded rapidly in recent years, with the number of guest houses based within local communities growing from 22 registered facilities in 2009 to just under 200 today.

With tourism and community development the central theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb lauded the Maldives’ industry as an example of how tourism can develop local communities.

Adeeb cited the current government’s innovation in mid-market tourism – the integrated resort project model – as a way to “responsibly diversify the tourism product of Maldives to the mid-market segment”.

“One of the fundamental elements of the Maldivian tourism industry is that the views and aspirations of the host community are taken into account as their support and genuine involvement enriches the holiday experience for the travelers visiting the Maldives from across the globe”.

The integrated resort model – pioneered with the recently launched Thumburi resort project – is designed to make the industry more accessible to small and medium sized enterprises, though some have questioned how the scheme will benefit local communities.

People-based development

World Tourism Day 2014 was celebrated in the Maldives with boduberu performances at all the country’s airports as well as environmental activities at a number of resorts, including reef cleaning and tree planting.

A bicycle ride was also organised in Hulhumalé to raise awareness of the use of environmentally friendly forms of transport.

The ride was organised by the Tourism Adaptation Project which will include 10 investment schemes to “climate proof” infrastructure in the tourism industry, explained Adeeb in the World Tourism Day supplement published for the occasion.

The supplement also included statements from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and World Tourism Organisation Secretary General Taleb Rifai.

“Tourism is a people-based economic activity built on social interaction, and as such can only prosper if it engages the local population by contributing to social values such as participation, education and enhanced local governance,” said Rifai.

“At the same time, there can be no real tourism development if such development damages in any way the values and the culture of host communities or the socio-economic benefits generated by the tourism sector do not trickle down to the community level.”

In his article for the supplement, Adeeb noted that the government’s flagship special economic zones bill would accelerate the development of the atolls and pave the way to initiate mega projects in different regions of the Maldives and will be a platform to expand our tourism industry”.

President Yameen last week reiterated his determination to provide equitable development throughout the 26 atolls, during a ceremony announcing reliable electricity would be provided to all inhabited islands during 2015.

A UNDP human development report released in June noted the growing disparities between the region surrounding the capital and the outer atolls. It described the tourism industry as an “oligarchy”.

While acknowledging the recent growth of the guest house industry, the report argues that the bulk of the luxury resort industry provides little opportunity for local small and medium enterprises.

Recent statistics showed that Malé’s Kaafu Atoll was home to 39.9 percent of the tourism industry’s bed capacity, while Seenu Atoll – home to country’s second largest urban population – had just 3.6 percent.

Following the launch of an online petition in April calling for development of the tourism industry in Haa Dhaalu – the country’s second northernmost atoll – government minister’s pledged equal development of the industry.


Maldives on course to meet million tourist target as political uncertainty dominates global headlines

“The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has said the Maldives will successfully welcome over one million tourists to the country this year, according to Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb.

The claims were made as the country’s ongoing political uncertainty comes under intense scrutiny by global media after the country’s judiciary – previously reported as being heavily politicised in a UN-sanctioned investigation – suspended polling scheduled for September 28,” reports Minivan News’ spin-off travel site, Dhonisaurus.

“Tourism Minister Adheeb, speaking after the country officially launched the international celebrations for World Tourism Day on September 27 from Kurumba Island Resort, said that current statistics – backed by the UNWTO – indicated that tourist arrivals would exceed one million visitors during 2013.

The Maldives narrowly missed out on its stated aim of bringing one million visitors to the country last year, citing the impacts of global media covering the controversial change of government, an event which followed a mutiny by sections of the police and military.

The UNWTO launch event was attended by Adheeb, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who spoke of the potential dangers the Maldives faced as a result of climate change – not least in terms of issues of water supply.

However, the celebrations, attended by senior UNWTO figures, were overshadowed by international media reports of “political chaos” in the country, and talk of potential disruption to the lucrative resort industry as a result of a 5,000 strong workers’ union pledging prolonged strike action.

The action was pledged in response to a Supreme Court decision on September 23 to indefinitely suspend the ongoing presidential election over allegations of voter irregularity, a decision that sparked global concern from international actors that had praised the voting process earlier this month.

Despite the strike pledge, tourism industry operators speaking to Dhonisaurus – including properties directly linked to presidential candidates placed second and third during voting on September 7 – said it had nonetheless been business as usual for the country’s resorts this week.

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Traders employees de-litter jetties 6, 7 for World Tourism Day

Traders Hotel Male’ employees welcomed World Tourism Day by cleaning jetties six and seven and surrounding areas last Tuesday, September 22.

The fifty employees who participated used brooms, gloves and bags to accomplish their mission. The team collected ten bags of litter from the streets and marine areas.

Traders Hotel said the activity “aimed to increase the awareness of the employees and local community about the importance of protecting the environment for a better quality of life. It also reinforced the hotel commitment to serve as a good steward of the environment.”