Tourism in the Maldives
Tourism is the largest economic industry in the Maldives, as it plays an important role in earning foreign exchange revenues and generating employment in the tertiary sector of the country. The archipelago of the Maldives is the main source of attraction to many tourists visiting the country worldwide.
Tourism began in the Maldives in 1972. A United Nations mission on development which visited the Maldives Islands in the 1960s did not recommend tourism, claiming that the islands were not suitable. Ever since the launch of the first resort in Maldives in 1972, however, tourism in Maldives has flourished. The arrival of the first tourist group is estimated to have occurred in February 1972. Tourism in Maldives started with just two resorts with a capacity of about 280 beds. Kurumba Island Resort is the first resort which was opened in Maldives, followed by Bandos Island Resort. At present, there are over 105 resorts located in the different atolls constituting the Republic of Maldives. Over the past few decades, the number of tourists in Maldives has risen continuously. In 2009, local island guesthouses started popping up in the Maldives. This was thanks to a change in regulations that began to officially allow tourists to stay among the local population, rather than just on privately owned resort islands. Today, more than 800,000 tourists visit the Maldives each year.
Arrivals by country
Most visitors arriving to the Maldives on short term basis in 2015 were from the following countries of nationality:
Natural beauty of the Maldives
The Maldives are known for their natural beauty including the blue ocean and white beaches, accompanied by clean air. The climate of the Maldives is ideal for visitors to get engaged in water sports such as swimming, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, water-skiing. windsurfing and kite boarding.
The natural beauty of the Maldives attracts tourists all over the world and every year. Its tourism industry is today the Maldives' largest revenue generator.
Due to their extraordinary underwater scenery and clean water, the Maldives is ranked among the best recreational diving destinations of the world. It was also reported to be the world's most desired honeymoon destination, according to a global survey by Agoda.com.
Overview of a tropical resort
A tourist resort in the Maldives consists of an exclusive hotel on its own island, with its population entirely based on tourists and work force, with no local people or houses.
These islands developed for tourism are approximately 800 by 200 metres in size and are composed of sand and coral to a maximum height of about 2 metres above the sea. In addition to its beach encircling the island, each island has its own "house reef" which serves as a coral garden and natural aquarium for scuba divers and snorkelers. The shallow water enclosed by the house reef also serves as a large natural swimming pool and protects swimmers from the ocean waves and strong tidal currents outside the house reef.
The buildings on a typical resort includes rooms and suites reserved for use by its guests, restaurants, coffee shops, shops, lounges, bars, discos and diving schools. A portion of the island also contains staff lodgings and support services such as catering, power generators, laundry, and a sewage plant. On-island shops offer a wide range of products, such as souvenirs and artifacts. Most resorts offer a wide variety of activities such as aerobics, volleyball and table tennis.
Tourism on a budget
Until recently, tourism was restricted to the Maldives resorts, built on uninhabited islands where all services are offered within the island, with no contact with the local people. Guests rarely move away from the resorts, managed mostly by foreign multinationals, whose revenues only minimally go to the local economy. Recently the legalization of tourist facilities took place on the islands inhabited by locals, to create new jobs and allow more people to enjoy the gains from tourism. One example of inhabited island where "guest houses" are growing is Huraa, situated in Kaafu Atoll of Maldives, one of the nearest locations from Malè's International Airport (only 20 km), where tourists can stay in a local guest house among island inhabitants.
Ecotourism in Maldives
Some promotion of ecotourism is practiced in the Maldives, with resorts emphasizing recycling of heat that is wasted in producing electricity and stricter policies of waste disposal. Furthermore, the government aims to conserve the natural beauty of the islands before they are being altered into resorts by enforcing laws such as prohibition of catching turtles and reduction in the damages caused to the coral reefs.
Nevertheless, the Maldives have frequently come under criticism for their lack of protection of the local shark populations, which have sharply decreased after being hunted extensively for decades. In some areas of the island, sharks have entirely disappeared. Sharks are hunted primarily for their fins. Shark fins are exported from the Maldives to other countries in Asia, where they are regarded as a delicacy. The fins are amputated from the live animals, which are then thrown back alive into the sea.
Although laws exist that prohibit this practice in the Maldives, these laws are not respected or enforced by the local authorities.
In 2001, a local environmental organization called Seamarc/Marine savers (known onsite as Reefscapers), has set up an ambitious program of reimplantation of coral in damaged areas, on the basis of resort sponsorship. Many thousand of tourist-sponsored "coral frames" have been transplanted with success in many resort reefs like Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru, and are under close survey by marine scientists; they constitute a refuge for thousand of tropical species, and participate in the preservation and recovery of these fragile ecosystems.
Tourism workers and employers
Workers in the tourism industry are represented by the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM). TEAM argues the 25,000 workers employed in the industry face poor conditions and have very low wages (between US$80 to US$235 monthly) given the cost of living. The employers' organisation is known as Maldives Association of Tourism Industry
- "Statistics Year Book, 2001–2016". Ministry of Tourism - Republic of Maldives. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
- "Maldives Largest Revenue Generator Is Its Tourism Industry".
- Garrod, Brian and Stefan Gossling (2007). New Frontiers in Marine Tourism. Elsevier, 2007. ISBN 0-08-045357-0, p. 31.
- "World's best honeymoon spot is...". CNN. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
- "BEACH HEAVEN MALDIVES".
- "Soneva Fushi". Only Exclusive Travel. Retrieved 2016-09-21.
- Fennell, David A. (2008). Ecotourism. Routledge, 2008. ISBN 0-415-42930-7, p. 185.
- Bloody shark slaughter in the island paradise Der Spiegel, 09-15-2008.
- "Reefscapers Story – Coral Reef Propagation". marinesavers.com.
- Report on the Current Status of the Tourism Industry Tourism Employees Association of Maldives 22 January 2009
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