On March 5, 2021, Maldives Immigration made a statement with regard to tourist establishments utilising foreign nationals to perform music and photography without obtaining proper visas. They also stated that strict penalties will be imposed on businesses that continue to engage in such activities, that also affect the future of local artists. Will this pose a challenge across the 150+ resorts and 500+ guest houses in the Maldives? Or will this bring positive change by opening up more opportunities for local talents?

PUBLISHED April 04, 2021

Mohamed Ali
Vice President
Association of Travel Agents
Across the Maldives, we are experiencing a surge in respect to foreign versus local employment, and in other opportunities available in the Maldives as well. At a time like this, it becomes a more sensitive matter. However, it needs to be addressed. In my opinion, there has to be a balance in the ratio and these types of decisions, especially those that affect a wide range of businesses, should be backed by research findings. I wonder if we have enough local artists, in terms of numbers and talent, that can serve the unique needs of the tourist resorts in the Maldives.
For events like Christmas and New Year, I don’t think we have 600 local bands? Every property will be looking for live bands for these festive events and private parties. So, for these we will need to allow foreigners and fairly provide the opportunity to locals.
Locals shall be given priority on all possible employment. That is the reason countries go for FDI. Music in the resort can be something happening every evening while photography can be occasional. Permanent employment at a resort is different from occasional visits. Locals willing to accept employment as resident musicians or resident photographers at resorts should be given priority as such employees. Foreign bands have a restriction to perform in the Maldives. However, at the same time, the resorts must be able to function and serve their customers. The challenge is in the monitoring. The Tourism Ministry inspections have not worked so far. The initiative from Maldives Immigration may be more effective. Strict penalties and a management audit, along with the annual audit, are more likely to bring positive changes.
I am not sure HPA allows movement of locals, and if so, restricting foreign artists might not be practical. However, if locals are willing to live like expatriates, as staff on the resort, by all means let’s give the locals this chance. If locals are not willing to adapt, then we have to allow foreign artists or workers to fill the gap.