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Maldives tourism sets sight on bigger numbers

The Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Maldives has a structured plan in place to enhance the tourism product, focus on niche segments and in turn boost tourism numbers. TBMEs Charmaine Fernz talks to officials from the ministry to delve deeper…..


The tourism industry in Maldives has witnessed positive growth but its authorities are not willing to settle for just the regular.

In a recent interview with Travel Bulletin Middle East, the deputy minister, Hussain Lirar from Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Maldives explained: “The numbers for this year so far has been very optimistic, which is evident from the increment in arrivals. Our plan going forward is to promote Maldives as a brand in an aggressive way. The destination is certainly termed as luxurious but we have options to fit all budgets. The tourism product is so varied that it cater for families, couples and even singles.”

It is undoubtedly the diversity of the product that has yielded an increment of five percent on global numbers. Last year, Chinese visitors were leading the ranking which is the same this year too followed by Europe and an aggressive growth from the Middle East. As Lirar puts it, “When it comes to this region, the purchasing power is stronger coupled with travel power. It is also a given that people from this region love to explore new countries and cultures. In the Maldives, the Middle East travellers will get both privacy and luxury.”

Going beyond Beaches

The tourism board has very interestingly tagged experiences of the destination through its apt tagline – ‘the sunny side of life’. In keeping with the tagline, the Ministry has further innovated with themes that go beyond the beaches and through story-telling. The different segments highlighted are the ‘fun-side of life’ focusing on adventure enthusiasts and water sports; ‘The colourful side of life’ targeted at divers and underwater experiences; ‘the spiritual side of life’ represented through its spas; ‘the Maldivian side of life’ highlighting the culture and ‘the romantic-side of life’ catering to honeymooners.

Elaborating on the activities lined up to promote the destination, Haris Mohamed, acting managing director, Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation said: “Our awareness campaign utilises a lot of social, digital and online media. We also use other forms of marketing and focus on experiences on the destination. The guest houses provide visitors value for money accommodation while at the same time a chance to engage with the locals. The country also promotes the ‘one resort…one island’ concept which provides families the exclusivity as each island has just one resort and its staff. We are also proud of the fact that Maldives is a 100% Muslim country which works to our advantage in this region. We have some common factors and all the food is Halal.”

Next Step

With a well-established tourism product in hand, the Ministry is of the opinion that it is constant innovation that will keep them ahead of the game. As Hussain Niyaaz, ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Maldives, Abu Dhabi who was recently appointed said: “Dubai and Abu Dhabi are important markets for us along with other regional countries. With my new appointment, we will look at several diplomatic and local out-reach programmes to boost awareness. The marketing activities planned will focus on both online and offline mediums.”

The tourism ministry however is well aware of the fact that constant upgradation of a product is very essential in order to keep up with growing competition. Keeping this in consideration, there are new developments underway which will enhance a visitors experience. As Niyaaz explains, “With regards to connectivity, a project of more than US$ one billion is currently underway at Male international Airport. There is also an over-water bridge being constructed between Male and Hulhule island airport, which is nearing completion. Further still, we have also increased capacity of another international airport South of Male which allows direct flights into Maldives. All these projects once completed within a year or two will project Maldives in a different light.

“Air connectivity is also getting a boost with confirmations from Air France who will commence service later this year; followed by Alitalia. This will be the first time Alitalia will operate a commercial service as the airline earlier operated charter flights. Air China will also commence direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Maldives.”

With connectivity addressed, the tourism ministry will also explore new segments such as MICE, school excursions, group travel, incentive travel as well as customised holidays.

Targets for 2017

Lirar concludes by saying: “UAE will be a big focus especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In addition, we will also tap into Kuwait, Qatar and Iran as well as KSA. To further strengthen our presence, we will be conducting multiple city road shows later this year post Ramadan. With all these activities in place, our target for 2017 is to achieve a seven percent increase from the Middle East.”


  • UNESCO has conserved an area for feeding and breeding the largest population of Reef Manta Rays (Manta alfredi). There are 3,000 different mantas with new individuals being sighted on a regular basis
  • Night diving and fishing trips offers visitors a different experience showcasing sea creatures who get naturally illuminated in the night
  • Middle East tourist love to go fishing locally and participate in fishing as a game
  • Maldives works as the testing ground for many tourism prototypes in the world. The destination has the first underwater restaurant, spa and fast preparing to welcome guests into its first underwater hotel by year end