The new Tourism Minister in Maldives: Hon. Ibrahim Faisal

Faisal took the oath of office as the Minister of Tourism for the Republic of Maldives at a ceremony held at the President’s Office Friday evening. This happened after the new president of Maldives was sworn into office.

The new minister, Hon Ibrahim Faisal received his higher education from Westminster International College, Malaysia. He studied business.

The former minister of Tourism for Seychelles, Hon. Alain St. Ange was one of the first foreign tourism leaders to congratulate Mr. Faisal on Linkedin, also on behalf of the World Tourism Network. St. Ange servers also as the VP for government relations for WTN, a global tourism association with 17,000+ members and observers in 133 countries supporting SMEs in global tourism.

The new Maldives Tourism minister served as Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Youth and Sports from 2013 to 2015. From 2015 to 2018, he was an additional secretary at the High Commission of Maldives in Malaysia.

Upon assuming office, Mohamed Muizzu, the recently inaugurated president of the Maldives, made a commitment to remove Indian troops from the archipelago, asserting that their involvement in geopolitical disputes was disproportionate for such a small nation. The Maldives will foster collaborations with all nations, including China and India.

Approximately seventy Indian military personnel maintain radar installations and surveillance planes, which are supported by New Delhi. Maldivian warships play a role in policing the exclusive economic zone of the country.

The Maldives heavily relies on tourism, which serves as the largest economic industry and contributes significantly to foreign exchange earnings.

Maldives is the 128th member of the World Tourism Organization. (UNWTO)

Tourism is a major employer, providing jobs to around 25,000 individuals in the tertiary sector. The allure of the Maldives’ archipelago attracts numerous tourists, while Chinese entrepreneurs have been rapidly acquiring tourism-related assets in the country. As tourism is the primary driver of the Maldives’ economy, this trend grants the Chinese considerable influence over the nation’s economic landscape.

The tourism industry is especially vulnerable to climate change: as one of the island nations expected to be most impacted by climate change, sea level rise and subsequent increased extreme weather, coastal flooding, and coral bleaching damage the natural attractions that bring many tourists to the country.

These environmental challenges necessitate the implementation of sustainable tourism practices in the Maldives. The government has been actively promoting eco-friendly initiatives, such as encouraging resorts to adopt renewable energy sources and implementing strict regulations to protect the delicate marine ecosystem. Additionally, the Maldives has been investing in coral restoration projects to mitigate the impact of coral bleaching and preserve the vibrant underwater biodiversity that tourists come to experience.

Despite these efforts, diversification of the economy beyond tourism has become a pressing need to reduce the country’s dependence on a single industry and create a more robust and resilient economy.

Former President Yameen’s tenure saw a significant increase in the Maldives’ debt to China, reaching a level equal to one-fifth of the nation’s GDP. At the same time, China became increasingly influential in the Maldivian tourism industry, which is vital to the country’s economy. Currently, the Maldives is under pressure to meet its international debt obligations to China, further exacerbated by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This crisis has had a severe impact on the tourism sector, the main source of foreign exchange earnings, supporting a population of 400,000 living on 198 out of the country’s 1,190 islands.

Tourism in the Maldives commenced in 1972 despite an earlier recommendation by a United Nations mission that deemed the islands unsuitable for tourism during their visit in the 1960s. Following the successful launch of the first resort in 1972, tourism in the Maldives has experienced significant growth. The first tourist group arrived in February of that year, marking the beginning of tourism in the Maldives, which initially consisted of two resorts with a total capacity of approximately 280 beds.

The first resort to open in the Maldives was Kurumba Island Resort, followed by Bandos Island Resort. Currently, there are more than 132 resorts located in different atolls within the Republic of Maldives.

The number of tourists visiting the Maldives has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2009, regulations changed to allow tourists to stay in local island guesthouses instead of solely on privately owned resort islands.

In 2015, the Maldives welcomed 1.2 million tourists, followed by another 1.5 million in 2016. Efforts are underway to expand tourism capacity by constructing an additional 23 properties, including international developers like Waldorf Astoria, Mövenpick, Pullman, and Hard Rock Café Hotel. Extensive upgrades at Velana International Airport will accommodate 7.5 million visitors by early 2019 or 2020.

Hotels often charge several thousand Dollars per night, while mostly unknown opportunities are available to stay in private guest houses for well less than $100 a night. It opens up interaction with a population that was isolated from tourism before.

SOURCE: The new Tourism Minister in Maldives: Hon. Ibrahim Faisal