The Way Ahead for Tourism in the Maldives

The newly appointed Maldives Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture, H.E. Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor met with UNWTO Secretary-General Mr. Taleb Rifai on the occasion of the 24th Joint Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific and UNWTO Commission for South Asia in Chiang Mai early this month, to discuss the way ahead for the Maldivian tourism industry.

The popular South Asian island destination experienced slow growth in tourist arrivals earlier in the year, but it is now looking ahead to further enhance development of the islands for tourism.

Attracting 931,000 international travellers in 2011, the island nation in the Indian Ocean that is famous for its crystal clear water and white sandy beaches has a lot to offer to international travellers. However, its vulnerability to natural and man-made ecological damage and global events highlights the need for strategic planning that ensures a sustainable tourism industry into the future.

During his attendance at the UNWTO Joint Commission Meeting, Minister Ghafoor outlined the nation´s strategic objective of continuing to develop the Maldives as a best practice example of sustainable tourism development – a nation with an economically profitable tourism industry that is in harmony with its natural environment, cultural resources and the values of its people. This will form part of the Fourth Tourism Master Plan(FTMP), (2012-2016), a document that will be drafted upon a new Tourism Development Strategy, as discussed with Secretary-General Mr. Rifai.

The Minister further discussed with the Secretary-General that a new tourism development strategy needs to be included in the FTMP which provides a standardized, transparent guide for foreign investment and be based on past experience. The specialized knowledge of local experts and assistance of UNWTO expertise should help to ensure a clear, credible and forward-looking strategy for the Maldives.

Over the coming months, UNWTO will work closely with the Maldives to organize and promote World Tourism Day 2013, which will be held in the country in September 2013. The Minister has been invited to attend the World Tourism Day celebrations in Spain this year to observe the annual event and start the plans for the Maldives´ World Tourism Day celebrations in 2013.