At­tract­ing Tourists

The Mal­dives hopes to bring in more tourists through an am­bi­tious ini­tia­tive.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Muham­mad Omar Iftikhar

Even a pos-card des­ti­na­tion needs to

love in tourists.

Leg­end says that be­fore 265 BC the Mal­dives was a peace­ful com­mu­nity with trade as its prime source of in­come as the tiny pieces of is­lands of the Mal­dives rep­re­sented ben­e­fits for the traders. It was not un­til the early 1970s that the coun­try re­al­ized its eco­nomic po­ten­tial in pro­mot­ing its tourism in­dus­try. In 1960s, a team from the United Na­tions (UN) had ren­dered it un­safe for tourist ac­tiv­i­ties to take place in the Mal­dives be­cause of its ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion. How­ever, the seren­ity sur­round­ing the Mal­dives at­tracts over 750,000 tourists to the coun­try ev­ery year.

Gaug­ing the po­ten­tial as a source of rev­enue, the gov­ern­ment of the Mal­dives has launched the Visit Mal­dives Year 2016 cam­paign. It aims to blend the tourists with the cul­ture and tra­di­tion of the Mal­dives and to make visi­tors feel at home. Prob­a­bly for the first time, the is­land coun­try is us­ing so­cial media to at­tract peo­ple as it is guar­an­tee­ing a full-year va­ca­tion pack­age through so­cial media var­i­ous com­pe­ti­tions. The cam­paign prom­ises a VIP welcome, an op­por­tu­nity to be­come a Visit Mal­dives Year (VMY) brand am­bas­sador and a sur­prise for ev­ery 100,000th visi­tor. South Asia's first free sea div­ing cham­pi­onship will also be a part of the VMY 2016 cam­paign. The Mal­dives is also blend­ing na­ture and hu­man tal­ent for the first time by hold­ing a Tourist Ar­rival Count­down Show to celebrate tourism and pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment to visi­tors.

It is a dream for cou­ples to get mar­ried in a serene lo­ca­tion and Visit Mal­dives Year 2016 is pro­vid­ing a once-in-a-life­time chance for cou­ples to tie the knot in the Mal­dives af­ter 3 fi­nal­ist cou­ples will en­ter the fi­nals where their dream wed­ding will be tele­cast online. Any such cam­paign would be in­com­plete if the lo­cal cui­sine were not a part of the pro­mo­tion. Dur­ing the VMY 2016, visi­tors will ex­pe­ri­ence the hos­pi­tal­ity of the Mal­dives through de­lec­ta­ble de­lights pre­pared by the lo­cals. While sa­vor­ing these dishes, the visi­tors will visit nearly 100 is­lands in 30 days and ex­pe­ri­ence var­i­ous cul­tures and

tra­di­tions.

A brain­child of the Mal­dives Mar­ket­ing & PR Cor­po­ra­tion, Gov­ern­ment of Mal­dives, VMY 2016 is des­tined to take the coun­try's tourism in­dus­try to a new level where its global reach is ex­pected to in­crease by ten folds.

VMY 2016 is ex­pected to hide the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal tur­moil from re­cent years as they have tar­nished its im­age as a peace lov­ing na­tion. Of­fi­cially launched by the Pres­i­dent of the Mal­dives, Ab­dulla Yameen Ab­dul Gay­oom, the pur­pose of VMY 2016 is to in­crease tourists to 1.5 mil­lion. The fig­ure cur­rently stands at 700,000 to 850,000. Ed­u­ca­tional aware­ness pro­grams as well as com­pe­ti­tions are planned to at­tract the ad­di­tional visi­tors.

In­ter­est­ingly, while the Mal­dives has been build­ing its im­age as a tourist des­ti­na­tion it has not used a proper mar­ket­ing cam­paign to do this. As such, VMY 2016 will have so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fits. The thou­sands of visi­tors com­ing to the coun­try will cre­ate har­mony with for­eign­ers while cre­at­ing a peace­ful global com­mu­nity.

Fur­ther, VMY 2016 will pro­vide job op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Mal­di­vians while cre­at­ing an in­flow of cap­i­tal to bet­ter the rev­enue stream. It is also ex­pected that VMY 2016 will serve to de­velop the in­fra­struc­ture in all ma­jor atolls of the Mal­dives to cre­ate more tourist des­ti­na­tions. More­over, the VMY 2016 cam­paign and the tourism sec­tor in par­tic­u­lar, will cre­ate av­enues for growth for the coun­try’s in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment, lead­ing to de­vel­op­ments in the con­struc­tion sec­tor and adding value to the agri­cul­ture and hand­i­crafts sec­tor.

While speak­ing at the launch cer­e­mony of VMY 2016, Pres­i­dent Yameen said, “There is no doubt the tourism sec­tor’s con­tri­bu­tion to the cre­ation of jobs is un­par­al­leled with any other sec­tor. In fact, the ben­e­fits of tourism as a cat­a­lyst for job cre­ation go a long way from a mere cre­ation of em­ploy­ment in ho­tels, re­sorts and restau­rants. Many an­cil­lary busi­nesses through­out the econ­omy gain from tourism, in­clud­ing the re­tail sec­tor, en­ter­tain­ment arena and trans­porta­tion in­dus­try.”

In view of an in­flux of tourists ar­riv­ing in the Mal­dives and be­cause of the growth of the tourism in­dus­try, the Mal­dives has ini­ti­ated the guest­house is­land pro­ject. The coun­try will de­velop a re­sort in Laamu Atoll Thum­buri hav­ing 2,100 beds. The Mal­di­vian Pres­i­dent has as­sured that less than 4 per­cent in­ter­est rate would be ap­plied to re­sort de­vel­op­ment, which will give higher profit per­cent­age to re­sort own­ers. Although the Mal­dives has en­joyed its share of tourism, some atolls are not be­ing prop­erly uti­lized. More­over, the pol­icy to pro­vide lesser in­ter­est rates will pro­pel con­struc­tion in over 50 atolls. Ear­lier this year, it was re­ported that re­sorts in the Mal­dives were of­fer­ing dis­counts of up to 30% to at­tract visi­tors.

In Novem­ber 2014, the Mal­dives tourism min­is­ter an­nounced plans to in­tro­duce the Green Tax or Eco Tax. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the Mal­dives is im­pos­ing on tourists a green tax of US$6 per bed from Novem­ber 2015. This may turn the coun­try into an ex­pen­sive tourist des­ti­na­tion and re­duce its ap­peal as a heaven on Earth. Ac­cord­ing to the tourism min­is­ter, Ahmed Ad­heeb, the rev­enue col­lected from the tax will go into man­ag­ing the waste from lo­cal re­sorts and other is­lands.

Where the pur­pose of im­pos­ing the green tax on tourists is to gen­er­ate ad­di­tional rev­enue, the premise could be that since tourists are lit­ter­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and are pol­lut­ing the land­scape, they must pay the tax for do­ing so. The Mal­dives could also use the tax to plant more trees, de­velop in­fra­struc­ture and cre­ate an ef­fec­tive garbage dis­posal sys­tem. The coun­try can also think about re­duc­ing the green tax in fu­ture be­cause this may not bode well for its tourism in­dus­try in the long run.

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