A versatile paradise

From snorkeling adventures to curated festivals, the Maldives offers a slice of paradise to all travellers and at every price point.

The Maldives is persisting in its journey to present itself as a diverse destination for different segments of travellers, not just the affluent.

According to the Maldives deputy tourism minister Naushad Mohamed, the authorities are promoting the destination for business travel, sports tourism and culture tourism.

The Maldives is courting families, sports enthusiasts, festival-goers, culture vultures, corporate groups and more

“We also want to include inclusive travel for the differently-abled,” said Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), adding that family travel is part of the strategy too.

Besides an altered destination marketing narrative, changes to infrastructure across the destination has helped to reposition the Maldives.

Dilip Rajakariar, CEO of Minor Hotels Group, observes that the Maldives has become very family-friendly, with an entire infrastructure built around families and their needs.

Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas offers a kids club that comes with a trampoline park, a splash park and slides as well as a full line-up of activities from 10.00 to 18.00 daily, giving children little reason to stay indoors.

Guests looking to bond can sign up for a story-telling date with grandpa, with cookies and milk thrown in. Families can also stargaze at the resort’s over-water observatory and interact with a Maldivian astrologist.

Andy Nightingale, cluster director of sales and marketing for Anantara Dhigu, Veli & Naladhu Private Island, Maldives, said properties offer a mix of programmes unique to children and for everyone in the family because “while families are eager to go on a holiday together post-lockdown, parents are also going crazy after 24 hours with their kids”.

“They need a break, and we are happy to help,” he said. Properties under his care offer complimentary kids programmes, like movie nights, so that the grown-ups can enjoy a tranquil drink or meal for a couple of hours.

Sunny Umar, founder of Halal Travel and co-founder of Get me to Maldives Travels, said resorts are offering different experiences, from museums and craft activities to local island visits, so as to attract a wider range of travellers.

For example, Crossroads Maldives, said to be the Maldives’ first multi-island integrated resort, offers two resorts, 12 dining destinations, two spas, a shopping avenue, and a wide range of recreational activities including watersports, chartered cruises and more.

Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas has programmes for little ones

Festivals are heating up too. Soneva Fushi hosted in May 2022 what it called “the greatest literary show on Earth”. The Jaipur Literature Festival, which is hosted at various places around the world, arrived for the first time in the Maldives in 2022, bringing together a line-up of the world’s finest authors and most acclaimed thinkers. The event will return to Soneva Fushi this year from May 12 to 21.

The expansion of destination experiences helps the Maldives to engage with younger travellers, opined the general manager of a global DMC, who declined to be named. He said younger travellers want more than just a fun holiday. They desire interaction with local people, and opportunities to appreciate local food, culture, heritage, and history.

“They want to understand more of the culture, not only luxuriate on the beaches,” he remarked.

The younger generation is observed to also want to leave a positive impact on the local economy wherever they travel, and are more carbon conscious. These travellers will discover that many resorts in the Maldives are certified with responsible tourism-driven organisations like Travelife, added the general manager.

The clearest shift away from the Maldives’ traditional affluent market is seen in the tourism marketers’ courtship of three-star travellers. There are hundreds of guesthouses that appeal to budget-conscious explorers, while homestays are newer options that are being marketed aggressively these days.

The anonymous general manager also noted that the Maldives is appealing now to “Instagrammers who are looking for something different”.

Meanwhile, with internal travel demand rising, local domestic airline Manta Air said in December 2022 that it would expand its fleet with 12 additional DHC6 Twin Otter aircraft for its seaplane service.

Efforts are paying off. The Maldives was named the World’s Leading Destination for the third consecutive year at the World Travel Awards (WTA) 2022, while MMPRC claimed the title of World’s Leading Tourism Board at the awards presented on November 11, 2022, at the WTA Grand Final Gala Ceremony in Muscat, Oman.

The destination welcomed 1.67 million tourists in 2022, up by 26.7 per cent against 2021 figures. This year’s target is set at around two million. The main source markets were India, Russia, the UK, Germany and Italy, with the US in sixth place as a growing market.

Although the Maldives is succeeding in expanding its markets, industry players expressed concerns about the country’s implementation of a higher Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST). Since January 2023, the T-GST has gone up from 12 per cent to 16 per cent.

“This is not a wise move. It would severely affect businesses as Maldives is already a pricey destination and airfares are also rising,” remarked Abdulla Ghiyas, president, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators. – Additional reporting by Karen Yue

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