THE BUSINESS - INTERVIEW
Minister of Tourism
Republic of Maldives
Dr. Abdulla Mausoom
Interview by Szilvia Szeszler
It was an exceptional honor that during my stay in the Maldives H.E. Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, Minister of Tourism received me and shared with me how tourism evolved in the last period and I could make this interview with him after a previous significant one which was made just one day after – firstly – the Maldives got the „World’s Leading Destination 2020.” Award.
Now I was very curious, how the Head of such an outstanding tourist destination sees and evaluates the present the situation.
- Dear Mr. Minister Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, so many things happened in the life of tourism on the Maldives since we have made the interview more than half year ago, just one day after the Maldives has won the highest prize that can ever be won, the „World’s Leading Destination 2020.” How would you evaluate the period since that time?
- The Maldives has become very full, as you may have noticed. Regard to tourism, 2021. started very well, we have record numbers: January, February, March were best ever in many resorts; April again was also very good, but May, June was bad because of the Delta-variant. The situtation was very bad in South Asia. We had to suspend tourist visa for the South Asian tourists. South Asia was about 23 % of our market, so it meant a 23 % decrease. We had to loose approximately 50 000 tourists in June because of that. In July again we started picking up and now in August we are better than in 2019. We are fully record; when we had the recovery we did not have the Ukraine market, as we were on bad list; we only got Chinese market yet. So the situation is pretty good and many resorts have opened, the employees have got their jobs back.
But still we are concerned, some islands, some resorts in extrem South, two resorts particularly they are not opened yet in that atoll because they are not functioning well and that relates to many jobs. They are closed and the employees are impacted. So are also other activities related to tourism: fisheries, agriculture, they are also impacted. But we are hoping that the things will go good and so this forthcoming four months from September till end of December will be a record braking. This month is going to be a record (August) since we opened the borders and we are hoping to reach nearly a 150 000 tourists in one month.
In the year 2022. is our World Union Anniversary of tourism, the 50 years and we want to celebrate it momumentally. In every month from January till December something big will happen. One of the biggest event we are focusing and also you can be part of it, the Tourism Summit that we will have in July with participating of international organizations and this year we will also be holding a UNWTO in first week of October.
- The Maldives is the best place for this event as your country treated this crisis period situation the best I think, in spite that very big sending countries are not visiting because of the mentioned circumstances.
- With regard to vaccination most of the resorts are vaccinated in 97 % – and we are talking the whole industry - 92 % plus vaccination second dose also done. We are back but Covid is there. We still have to be careful because the held protocolls are very important, so we have to pay great attention and hold them.
- The hotels are treating the situation very professionally, as I saw.
- Yes, indeed, in the hotels they do it very professionally but if you come to Male, it is less. The small hotels here have the guidelines that they have to follow so the situation is pretty same. So basically we have to thank the European markets, especially the Eastern European market for being very strong.
- The hotels are very full, mainly in the capital and in greater Male, why?
- We have got many guests from South Asia, especially from Pakistan and India who are travelling to nearby and other countries but they have a requirement that they have to stay in an other place for 14 days so then they are clear to go, many of them using the Maldives as a stop-over.
- Are they ill people?
- No, no. For example they say if you come from this country, you can come but if you come from an other country you cannot come. So as the Maldives is a safe place, from the Maldives they can come. For example from India they can’t go but if they come here and stay for 14 days then they can go with a negative PCR test. In the Maldives we have been operating for 1 month since we opened the South Asian border and nothing happened, no cases. Previously when Maldivian numbers went up, South Asian numbers also went up. Then people thought it was a deal with South Asia, but not. It was because we had our Ramadan month, it was a closed month when we were together with a lot of religious gatherings. That is the spike we had. Now I get daily these numbers. There were 134 cases on the 18th (August), in greater Male 48, in the hotels 9. 7000 PCR test were made in Male. Then we look at whether these are tourists, or not. Two of them were foreigners. We have our 23 % of our markets from South Asia. All people who come here when go out make a negative PCR, so Maldives is safe. But accomodation has an issue, indeed these times.