The tourism industry has seen mammoth growth in the past decade as technological advancements and connectivity enhanced in even the most remote destinations in the world. One such tiny treasure, the Maldives, also achieved milestones in the development of the industry, welcoming over 1.5 million tourists in the year 2019.
However, when the unprecedented global pandemic of COVID19 halted the world on its tracks, we realized just how majorly the industry has been contributing to small nations, and us Maldivians are dependent on it like a lifeline.
Fast forward to today, the Maldives is an exemplary destination to the world in showcasing how coordinated response from stakeholders can revive the industry. It was one of the first tourism destination to open its national borders to the world, and in the span of less than a year, tourist arrival numbers have shown promising growth towards achieving pre-pandemic numbers.
In a ceremony held at the Ministry of Tourism today, Tourism Minister, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom and UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives. Akiko Fujii signed the project document for ‘Reimagining Tourism’ focusing on the development of a resilient tourism in the Maldives. The project is funded through UNDP Core Funds under its Rapid Financing Facility.
If there is one thing the world has learnt through the pandemic, it is that from the local vegetable seller to the most affluent resort service provider, all are involved in the industry at the same caliber. It will be impossible for the industry to survive should anyone not be involved hence, a resilient rebirth requires us to research, rethink, re-evaluate and rebuild as an involved sector. It is an opportunity to rethink tourism beyond government and private sector partnerships and stress on the importance of engaging local communities in tourism planning and development to ensure greater dividends to communities.
Focusing on Laamu Atoll, the ‘Reimagining Tourism’ project will explore, develop and test pathways for making tourism in the country more inclusive, resilient and sustainable. Beginning with allocating land for tourism in the island development plans to identifying and documenting the sustainable tourism service providers, a number of government Ministries will be involved alongside international organizations for period of 18 months.
Over the course, the project will create opportunities for youth and women to get involved with the tourism developments happening on the islands and in the region, opening up scope for better income generation in local islands. Not limited to just guesthouses and hotels, means of developing bigger tourist accommodation will also be explored around the concept of sustainable and eco-tourism. Moreover, the cultural heritage will also be included as a key aspect that needs to be carried forward in the growth towards a more resilient industry.
In addition to the Dr. Mausoom and Akiko Fuji, members of UNDP Maldives, Ministry of tourism and media participated in the ceremony. Briefing about the project, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Dr. Naushad Mohamed said that even though the project is focused on Laamu Atoll, the findings from the research survey will be used to develop better models for tourism growth in the future and the project is bound to expand nationwide in the coming times.
Photos: Laamu Tour