Dubai: The Maldives hopes to achieve pre-tsunami tourist numbers this year as it searches for new markets for attracting holidaymakers.
The December 2004 tsunami had a devastating effect on the country, slashing its tourist arrivals from 616,716 in 2004 to 395,320 last year.
“Our aim this year is to have about the same number of foreign tourists as we had in 2004,” Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) assistant director Mohammad Adam told Gulf News.
The idyllic holiday destination in the Indian Ocean receives only a small number of Arab tourists from the Gulf region. Last year 290 Kuwaitis and 691 Saudis visited the Maldives compared with 573 and 1,872 respectively before the tsunami.
“We get a significant number of expatriates from the Gulf, but the number of citizens is very small. We are trying to get more Arab tourists,” Adam said.
During a recent tourism promotion campaign in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Maldives announced that it would offer 35 islands to investors for developing resorts.
A total of 1,190 islands make up the Maldives and 202 of these are uninhabited. More than one-third of its 360,000 citizens live in the capital Male. A large number of islands serve as tourist spots and host self-contained resorts.
According to MTPB, occupancy in hotels and resorts between January and April touched 94 per cent compared with 85 per cent average occupancy in 2004 and 64 per cent in 2005.
The tsunami destroyed 21 resorts out of 87. Most of these resorts have been rebuilt and the government has launched plans to build new resorts on the uninhabited islands. The cost of developing the 35 resorts is estimated at $600 million. Ten of these resorts will cater to the high-end market, 10 will serve the low-budget travellers and 15 in various other categories will be developed by the Maldivian government.
“There is a demand for more capacity, that is why we have launched these developments. We have made a good recovery,” Adam said.
During the January-April period the Maldives recorded 182,758 tourist arrivals, compared with 39,179 for the same period last year.
The Maldives had a capacity of 16,000 beds, which dropped by 3,886 after the tsunami.
Source: Gulf News