Maldives – Your Gateway to a mystical paradise beyond imagination

Sep 05 2017

Maldives, a destination historically conceived as a honeymooner’s heaven has been recently witnessing a significant paradigm shift. Not only is the island nation promoting Maldives as an ultimate holiday destination for families across the globe, but the kind of experience this mystical paradise has to offer is indeed beyond imagination. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the UAE Outbound Travel & Tourism expenditure was estimated at US$ 24.6 billion in 2016. By 2020, the total expenditure is expected to reach US$ 28.4 billion. This glorifies the fact that Maldives tourism has a huge potential to tap into this market, leveraging the fact that Maldives is a 100% Muslim nation. To further understand the new strategies to promote the country, emerging tourist segments and new offerings and attractions that this island has to offer, Travelwebme interacted with His Excellency Dr. Hussain Niyaaz, Ambassador of the Republic of Maldives, Abu Dhabi who enlightened us with profound insights regarding Maldives Tourism.

Being an ultimate Family Holiday destination

Gone are the days when the Maldives was popularly known as a destination specialised for honeymooners only. In fact, today, with conscious efforts by the government to diversify the tourism product offered by the Maldives and considering the innovative activities and offers by hotels and resorts for families especially with kids, the island nation is also increasingly gaining popularity as a family friendly destination around the world. HE Niyaaz states, “Maldives is a family oriented place with a powerful social and cultural inclination. This has led to several initiatives by the industry operators as well as the government to make it a family oriented market, especially for those families travelling with kids. In addition to the professional child care services, many resorts now have special children’s play areas and dedicated entertainment and recreational activities for children; while kids enjoy themselves, parents can make the most of their time without worrying much about their toddlers.”

Changing perceptions over the years

There have been several pre-conceived notions revolving Maldives. While it had earned a reputation world-wide for being a haven for honeymooners, people also considered the country to be very expensive for tourists. To make travel affordable for everyone, various hotels and resorts have cropped up that caters to budget travellers. Another major reformation from the past also includes allowing locals to start their own guesthouses. Such developments induce travellers who are on a budget to experience the holiday destination without digging deep into their pockets. Ambassador Niyaaz comments, “Perceptions are changing, but it is still a slow process. People still have a false impression that Maldives is an exorbitantly expensive holiday destination where honeymooners go once in their lifetime. But that’s not exactly correct. There are repeat visitors to Maldives who continue to come to the Maldives throughout their life time. The destination is an excellent spot for relaxation, rejuvenation and spiritual enrichment. I think there are very few places in the world where you can find such kind of environment.

One Island, One Resort concept

Maldives has been redefining luxury holidays with its ‘One Island, One Resort’ concept, garnering the attention of upscale travellers and global trendsetters. With just one luxury resort on an island, guests enjoy exclusivity and privacy while peacefully unravelling the heavenly beauty of this tropical paradise. Bejewelled with over 1190 islands and sandbanks that are surrounded by a lagoon blessed with crystal clear water only 188 islands are inhabited by the local population. Ambassador Niyaaz adds, “As per the latest statistics, there are 115 resorts under operation. More than 150 islands have already been leased out for development purposes. We will see more resorts opening between 2017 and 2019.” While most of the top-tier hospitality brands have established its footprint on the islands, there are several others eagerly awaiting to add the destination to its portfolio.

Connectivity and affordability

Connectivity is one of the most intriguing factors that bolster tourism in a nation. Ambassador Niyaaz rightly points out that it was the growing network of airline connectivity that provided a tremendous impetus to tourism in Maldives. HE says, “When the country started giving importance to tourism, we commenced with chartered flights. The first set of tourists who boarded the chartered flights were a group of Italian tourists. This led to more chartered flights to Maldives from various countries. But, circumstances have surpassed way past our imagination. Most of the reputed international airlines across the globe now have scheduled flights to Maldives. This has initiated a massive flow of tourists into the country.” Maldives has not only strengthened its aviation network around the globe but also ensured the affordability of the travel. This has further induced more tourists to consider Maldives as a holiday destination owing to its connectivity and affordability.

Unexplored avenue for adventure

With ninety nine percent of the natural beauty of the Maldives being under water, it is an undeniable fact that Maldives offers one of the best avenues for adventure sports. The Maldives tourism industry and the government are rigorously promoting the Maldives as an ultimate spot for various water sports like scuba diving, para-sailing, water-boarding, surfing and snorkelling, making it an adventurous destination for adrenaline junkies. The Maldives is home to several diving schools. While these diving schools are not just restricted to resorts, guests who choose to stay in a guest house in either the capital Male’ or any of the rest of the inhabited islands spread across the archipelago can also enrol in standalone diving schools where diving lessons are available for all stages of divers, right from beginners to advance divers.

Ambassador Niyaaz adds, “Even if guests have never indulged in diving before, they can feel at ease with an experienced and qualified diving instructor. Learning to dive in the Maldives is perhaps once in a life time experience as crystal clear waters, and underwater visuals elevate the diving experience to a different level. Another major unexplored attraction is surfing. It is still quite unknown that the Maldives also has some of the world’s best surfing spots. With the Maldives hosting international surfing competitions in the past, more enthusiasts are keen on exploring this activity in Maldives, even from as far as the US.”

Musical and Festive Vibes

Maldivians are known for their generous hospitality and welcoming nature. Maldives has a very distinctive culture which is still largely unexplored by the tourists. An excellent example of this is the Maldivian music. The most popular form of Maldivian music is called “boduberu” which means big drums. Boduberu is a drum-based music which starts off with slow beats, eventually picking up the pace, leading to an energetic tempo and ultimately ending with a hypnotic climax. It is usually performed for guests as a form of an “ice breaker”, bringing people closer in an enjoyable environment. Commenting on the uniqueness of the music, HE says, “Our local Maldivian music is unique to the islands and has no comparisons in the South Asian sub-continent. It is an amalgamation of African and Arabic music with some influences from the sub continent. Many young local bands enthral guests at various resorts in the country.” The celebration of festivals like Eid is another attraction yet to be capitalised by Maldives. The island commemorates its festivities in its distinct way incorporating exclusive games and sports, making it more enticing for tourists to explore and enjoy Maldivian culture.

Vision ahead

There are still various regions in Maldives that are yet to be explored and developed. With a growing demand from tourists globally and support from the government, new hotels are currently under construction to cater to every segment of tourism market, opening up the destination for new travellers. Highlighting the new developments for tourists in the country, HE concludes, “Strengthening of regional connectivity within the Maldives is another major factor causing tourism to explode in the interiors of Maldives. We are opening more regional airports which will improve internal connectivity. Tourists who like to discover the path less travelled can head to some pristine areas in the interiors of Maldives. Several new hotels are coming up in the extreme corners of the Maldives, luxurious boutique hotels as well as guest houses. New traveller segments are emerging. We are already catering to the needs of overseas school groups who come for excursions. MICE is another segment that is pivotal to our growth plans. We plan to develop our infrastructure to align with the needs of MICE clients aptly. ”