The Maldives woos middle class Indian tourists

Monday, 23 August 2010 12:56

It's a short hop from Thiruvananthapuram and barely an hour and half's flight from Bangalore, from where regular flights operate – and yet, the picturesque Maldives got only 15,850 of India's estimated 10 million outbound tourists in 2009. Then again, with average hotel rack rates of $600 a day and commuting between islands costing $500, only the well-heeled can afford a holiday to this incredibly beautiful Indian Ocean getaway – even if it is right in our neighbourhood.

All that may change soon, with the online travel company Make My Trip teaming up with the Maldives Tourism Ministry to offer affordable packages for Indians to the nearby island-nation. To start with, Mumbai will get linked to Gan in southern Maldives through charter flights that will commence operations from October 2.

“Later, we plan to add flights to capital Male and link other Indian metros, perhaps Delhi, also. Kingfisher will be operating these charter flights for us,” said Keyur Joshi, COO and co-founder, Make My Trip. The starting price for the special promotional packages valid till February 2011 is Rs 29,999 for a three-night stay at the newly developed Hera Thera resort in Gan. “With this initiative, we plan to fly in 6,000 Indians into Maldives,” said Joshi.

For its part, the Maldives Tourism Ministry is trying to change the image of the coral islands as prohibitively expensive by creating more capacity for mid- segment tourists. “Sixty four more island resorts that between them will have 144,000 beds are being developed primarily for the mid-market segment,” said Thoyyib Mohamed, Minister of State for Tourism, Arts and Culture, the Maldives. Currently, 80 per cent of the beds available in the 97 existing resorts in the Maldives are for premium segment travellers. But with the development of these new resorts, the mix could change.

The Tourism Minister pointed out that Gan, which is all set to host the next SAARC summit, was an interesting place boasting a World War II British air base and lying south of equator. “All those who come here get a certificate saying they have crossed the equator,” said the Tourism Minister.

Tourism unexplored

Even as this tropical paradise is said to be sinking very fast into the oceans due to global warming, the Maldivian Government is aggressively opening up many more of its estimated 1,200 islands for tourism development. Hundred per cent FDI in tourism is now allowed. However, as Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay, High Commissioner to the Maldives, rues: “Indians have invested in healthcare and education but in tourism, I say, we are only 2 per cent investors with only two of the 100-odd island resorts here developed by an Indian company – the Taj group.”

By wooing more Indians into their lovely archipelago, the Maldives Government clearly hopes to generate investment interest from its biggest neighbour too!
Chitra Narayanan
(Recently in the Maldives)


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