MATATO bemoans insufficient funds, activities to promote Maldives tourism

Tourists pictured at INIA. FILE PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

Tourists pictured at INIA. FILE PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) heavily criticised the government on Monday over lack of sufficient budget and planned activities to promote the nation’s tourism in the coming year.

In a statement, MATATO asserted the importance of upping promotions at a time when several new resorts are being unveiled and guesthouse popularity is skyrocketing. The association stated that the issue had been brought to the attention of the government, parliament and Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

However, MATATO bemoaned the funds allocated for tourism promotion in 2017, which have been cut down by over 25 percent of the original budget requested of the Ministry of Tourism. The finalised budget is even smaller than that of this year and 2015, said the association.

“This is worrying in a country where two thirds of its economy is dependent on tourism,” said MATATO as it highlighted that the marketing budgets of increasingly rival destinations Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles are ten to twenty percent larger than the Maldives’.

MATATO also expressed anxiety over MMPRC’s delay in opening applications for the international tourism fairs scheduled over the next three months. Noting that flights and hotels must be booked beforehand to participate especially in European trade fairs, MATATO said it is likely that the brand of Maldives’ may not be exhibited in the early fairs of 2017.

The association raised concerns over these problems arising at a time when the tourism industries of other countries such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka are on the rise. While tourists traveling out of China and other Asian countries are increasing annually by 18 percent and 11 percent respectively, MATATO noted that the Maldives’ tourism industry had only spiked by 3.5 percent by the end of last October.

Other challenges faced by the archipelago’s tourism sector includes its top tourism market of China receding by 10.6 percent this year, while resort occupancy rates, daily room rents and tourism revenue are also on the decline.

“If we neglect [promoting the Maldives on the global market], the number of tourists to the Maldives will decrease and profits will go down for this industry’s entrepreneurs,” warned MATATO.

Tourism in the Maldives had been in a slump mostly throughout this year, progressing at only 1.8 percent during the first half of 2016 according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as opposed to its average rate of 6 percent.

The Maldives government had also revised its estimate of 1.5 million tourists visiting the archipelago by the end of this year to 1.4 million, mainly due to the staggering recession of the Chinese market.

However, the Tourism Ministry and MMPRC had earlier declared that several activities have been planned to up the Maldives’ tourism sector and tourist arrivals next year. The promotional activities include taking part in a number of trade fairs, hosting an international tourism fair in the Maldives, and amending the nation’s tourism promotion policy to a data and researched based one.

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