South Africans are increasingly making their way to the white sandy beaches and blue waters of the Maldives with a 12.7% increase in the number of South Africans travelling to the Maldives over 2015. Although South Africa is still a small market in terms of Maldivian tourism, the Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) does view South Africa as a key market and is looking at expanding it. Mohamed Adam, deputy managing director of the MMPRC, told us m
What are the main reasons for increased tourism between SA and the Maldives?
Mohamed Adam: We’ve always seen South African tourists travelling to Maldives, but it’s hard to pinpoint particular reasons for the rise in the number of South Africans coming to the Maldives in recent years. Of course, Maldives is a veritable heaven on earth – thanks to our unparalleled beauty, the white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, our climate, between 23?C and 31?C all year round – this is an obvious drawcard.
South Africans do have a few unique advantages available to them when it comes to travelling to Maldives. For instance, being a former British protectorate, English is widely spoken in the Maldives. South Africans also don’t require a visa when visiting the island. Additionally, with the exchange rate between the rand and the Maldivian rufiyaa practically being 1:1, it can be a very cost-effective holiday destination for the price-sensitive traveller. Facilities cater for every pocket and preference, ranging from budget accommodation through guest houses – a fairly new concept in Maldivian tourism – to our famed elite luxury resorts. Ultimately, there are many reasons why South Africans are choosing “the sunny side of life.”
What are the MMPRC’s strategies in gaining access to the South African market? How will you be promoting the Maldives as an attractive tourist destination to South African travellers?
Adam: While we’ve previously explored increasing our footprint in the South African marketplace with presences at trade shows and tours around the country, this is the first time we’re truly making a concerted effort to explore what opportunities are available to us in South Africa. So far, this has taken the form of engaging a local PR agency and attending the World Travel Market Africa conference which was held in Cape Town a few weeks back, to meet with players in the South African travel industry.
What do the Maldives offer in terms of attractions, accommodation, etc?
Adam: Maldives is the sunny side of life, a tropical paradise of 1,192 scattered islands across the Indian Ocean in a double chain of 26 geographic atolls. The Maldives is world famous for luxurious resort hotels, as one of the leading and most exclusive holiday destinations if the world. For tourists who enjoy privacy, relaxation, the sea, beach, peace of mind and some time away from routine or a hectic life, the Maldives is a dream destination.
As Maldives is a chain of individual islands, travel by sea (speedboats, sea ferries, and seaplanes) is the main medium of transport.
Maldivian tourism is mainly based on Resort Hotels which are isolated islands that are entirely self-contained. Everything you’d need to enjoy your stay at the resort hotel – spas, gyms, water sports, diving clubs, different restaurants specialising in local and international cuisine – is entirely catered for on the island. Privacy is a huge factor for all guests residing in resorts, as only the hotel guests and staff actually stay on the resort islands. This explains why many celebrities often choose to visit the Maldives as well.
The Maldives is a highly sought-after location for honeymooners. The white sandy beaches, colourfully sunsets, warm, moonlit, starry nights and the remoteness of each and every island contributes to us being a top romantic getaway destination.
The Maldives is also one of the most appealing dive destinations in the world with its relaxed atmosphere, year-round warm water, its rich marine life teeming around the coral reefs where you will find schools of fish, mantas, rays, and dolphins. Resorts have snorkelling house reefs – reefs particularly for that resorts’ guests – and diving excursions.
For the seriously dedicated diver, you can structure your entire trip around diving with our special dive cruises that can be taken on liveaboards. Liveaboards are trips on fully-catered luxury yachts that take you around the islands visiting the most famous and beautiful dive sights in the Maldives.
What did you hope to achieve through your visit to the World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town?
Adam: We were hoping to forge connections with local players in the industry, like tour operators, with whom we could build strategic partnerships to introduce the Maldives as a destination. The ultimate goal of this was to, therefore, not only increase the number of South Africans travelling to the Maldives but to increase the general awareness of the Maldives as an attractive destination.
A prominent theme for WTM Africa was sustainable and responsible tourism. Tell us more about the Maldives’ efforts in this regard.
Adam: Tourism drives the Maldivian economy. Tourists come to our islands to witness our fabulous marine natural resources, showcased in our excellent diving, shallow lagoons, white sandy beaches and underwater coral gardens. However, these natural resources are extremely fragile and susceptible to adverse environmental events. As such, the Maldivian government has adopted a proactive approach to preserving our tropical island paradise. We are blessed with natural beauty and we are doing everything to protect and preserve this beauty for future generations.
For instance, each of our Resort Hotels is autonomous, generating its own power and water, and typically implements a kind of recycled energy programme. There are also protected marine and land zones where development is restricted and, in some cases, forbidden, thus curbing an expansive and overwhelming surge of tourism development.
Over a decade ago, our government also established a new marker for ecotourism in the Maldives: The President of Maldives Green Resort Award. This award is designed to recognise the importance of environmental protection to ensure the sustainability of the Maldives, and encourage local resorts to adopt green and sustainable policies in their operations and development. Pollution is also minimal at the resorts because only bicycles are used as transportation and no fuelled vehicles are used other than land buggies.
This article was first published in Bizcommunity on 5 May 2016