Orca Media Group is a state-of-the-art PR and marketing company working primarily with the tourism industry in the Maldives. Responsible for the production of the Corporate Maldives Gold 100, the most prestigious business guide in the country, they have been involved with the growth of both some of the better known resorts in the Maldives as well as the new guest house sector.
What is the main challenge for the growth of the tourism industry in the Maldives today?
Undeniably, the biggest challenge is infrastructure, and within that, air connectivity is primal. We are in need of a better airport, given that the current airport’s capacity has not been extended for over 15 years. We have to level up our airport facilities as soon as possible, in order to support tourism activities and the growth objectives set by the government and the industry. Connectivity is fundamental for the Maldives – the more connected we are, the more business we are able to make. The main infrastructure we need, such as the terminal and the other services catering to it, is already under development. It may require 3 to 4 years to conclude this government-funded project, but once it is done, the sector will benefit considerably.
How do you evaluate the legal framework for the sector?
Nurturing a very business friendly environment, our country has been very welcoming towards investors and visitors. Still, the government will have to move further on, especially in terms of local tourism and tourism safety. Regulating the property standards is also an area that needs to be addressed. All islands should follow strict environmental sustainability standards. There are considerable amendments that need to be implemented, particularly those related to the safety of tourists. Tourism is a cornerstone of the economy and consequently, safety is quite critical for us.
The government has tripled the budget for tourism promotion. How do you see this measure?
This decision clearly indicates that the official authorities are closer to the industry stakeholders than before. I am confident that this is the best period for the tourism industry in the last 5 years. The impact from the new government’s recent actions is instantly visible. The country’s international image has improved significantly and improved public relations translate to direct benefits for the Maldives in general. I am fairly optimistic for the future, especially after the completion of the airport.
The guest house sector is relatively new, and yet it seems to be growing at a fast pace. What is your take on this trend?
Before the legal framework for the installation of guesthouses was passed in 2009, there was a huge pressure from locals and potential foreign investors for opening this sector. These businesses did exist in a semi-legal manner before, but they represented more than 7,000 beds in over 80 islands, generating around $100 million in revenues per year. After the respective law was passed, the market has been growing with remarkable speed. The idea was to open the Maldives to other types of tourists, beyond the higher-income community. Guesthouses open doors for middle and low income tourists that would otherwise never have the opportunity to visit, which in turn provides substantial income for the country. Today, nearly every island has its own guesthouse business, opening the tourism industry to many Maldivians that never had the means to partake in the luxury tourism sector, neither as guests nor as business owners.