Maldives Association of Travel Agents & Tour Operators (MATATO), Guesthouse Association of Maldives (GAM), Divers Association of Maldives (DAM) and the National Boating Association of Maldives (NBAM) held a digital meeting via video conference call in order to discuss the issues and challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they can work together to mitigate these challenges.
During the digital meeting, NBAM President, Mr. Ahmed Afrah shared that the organisation has requested all boat owners to find ways in which they can sustain staff. He further shared that the NBAM is guiding members on how to apply for loans, and are requesting members to take the benefits of relief loans and moratorium.
Vice President of GAM, Mr. Mohamed Imthiyaz stated that the guesthouse industry has been hit in all aspects, especially as they are connected to local communities and the very first segment to be forced to close down, bringing operations to halt overnight. Hence, they are also recommending that all members find ways to minimise expenses, and maintain ways in which it can be managed minimally.
Mr. Abdulla Suood, President of MATATO stated that during these unprecedented times, all organizations need set aside their differences and work together, reiterating that all the organisations are working towards a common goal.
Speaking about the challenges faced by dive schools around the Maldives, President of the DAM Mr. Ashraf stated: "It is very unfortunate that many dive schools have had to be closed, the same as every business. However, we are advising every good employer to be reasonable when letting go of employees, to follow instructions as per job agreements and give adequate time. We all are in this together, and we have to help each other overcome this."
Ms. Saazu Saeed, Vice President of the DAM added that new activities would have to be explored in order to mitigate the challenges that will be faced upon re-commencement of operations. She stated that in order to get new customers and tap into new markets, different activities such as free diving and spear fishing can be put in place, if managed well. She further added that if all such activities can be well-regulated and enforced to only take place in special zones and in specific periods, it can generate good income.
Mr. Seeneen, board member of the DAM expressed his concern regarding all the dive chambers closing down due to the pandemic. He stated that it should be properly addressed and attended to by the government, as there are still some tourists in the country, as well as fishermen, who sometimes face decompression sickness. He added that they must find ways to attend such incidents.
All organizations, including the Association of Travel Agents (ATA) and Maldives Association of Yacht Agents(MAYA) who were unable to join the first digital meeting due to pre-commitments, agreed to work together and conduct digital meetings once a week.
The organisations further agreed to request the government to provide the relief funds without delay, and also to explore ways in which authorities can help sustain businesses, which can in turn help them to support employees and minimally hold on to business without collapsing.
Together, the organisations have been carrying out a social awareness campaign, posting through various platforms with messages, including the logos of all the organisations that have joined forces during this critical period.
Before the lockdown was implemented, the associations met together with the Economic Minister Hon. Uz Fayyaz Ismail, the Tourism Minister Hon. Ali Waheed and the Commissioner General of Taxation of the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA), and discussed inside ways to sustain the establishments and retain the employees.
Furthermore, the organizations have shared the industry challenges on various local news channels.