The Guesthouse Symposium, organized by the Ministry of Tourism was successfully held with the participation of over 400 guesthouses across Maldives. Key tourism industry stakeholders and representatives from Atoll and Island Councils attended, shared their ideas and had a good networking at the symposium held at Dharubaaruge Convention Centre at the capital Male City on
Main objective of this symposium was to create a platform for guesthouse operators and relevant government authorities to come together and discuss issues and constraints, providing strategic directions for sustainable development of guesthouse sector, which support environmentally sensitive business operations, while protecting the cultural and natural heritage of the island in providing maximum economic and social benefits to the local community. Maldives Guesthouse Symposium was held as part of the governments first 100-day pledges.
Themed as Towards Sustainable Tourism, the symposium focused on four separate sessions; first session was concentrated on the legal framework governing the operation of guesthouses. The second session focused on the relationship between tourism and local communities, whilst the third session explored destination marketing strategies for the guesthouse industry. The final session collected the experiences of guesthouse owners and operators. Group discussions were also held during the symposium, where participants held discussions on three key topics: sustainable development of the guesthouse industry, development of support infrastructure and marketing of guesthouses and related products.
Hon. Minister of Tourism, Mr. Ali Waheed stated that "The government will commence work on formulating a tourism sector strategic master plan within its first 100 days and 2019 will be a record-breaking year for Guesthouse tourism in the Maldives. This symposium has created a platform for the local guesthouse industry to unite and address the key challenges faced by the industry stakeholders. Minister acknowledged the high turnout for the symposium, especially during the peak tourist season. Minister also stressed that tax laws need to be amended in order to boost the local tourism and decentralization is a key to the development of the guesthouse industry".
Managing Director of MMPRC, Mr. Thoyyib Mohamed stated that "Maldivian culture would be a prominent aspect in the promotion of tourism and it would be immensely promoted at ITB Berlin in 2019. Marketing seminars will be held in 11 different locations in Maldives and the corporation will collaborate with social media activists and travel writers to promote Maldives as a travel destination. Mr. Thoyyib also expressed the need to establish efficient facilities such as water and sewerage systems in local islands to stimulate demands for local guesthouses".
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Maldives Guesthouse Symposium 2018, Hon. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih stated "the SME Financing and Development Corporation (SFDC) will be created with the shareholding of the government. SFDC would be first established as a financial institute which does not take deposits, but it would be changed to a depository company later on. Financial and professional assistance would be provided to guesthouse businesses through this company, with loans scheduled to be issued from February 2019.
Moreover, Hon. President addressed that tourism industry accounts 70 percent of the Maldivian economy and stated the importance of further developing the industry in order to achieve economic feasibility and individual growth. Maldives should not only be promoted as a luxury destination; middle-class market must be advertised as well.
According to the latest statistics released by the tourism ministry, the country has over 500 registered guesthouses offering a total bed capacity of 8292 accounting to around 18 per cent of the total accommodation capacity.
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