Maldives woos Chinese investors

Monday, 27 September 2010 10:46

The Maldives' ambassador to China, Ahmed Latheef, said he welcomes investment from China on resorts to boost development of local tourism and is calling for more attention to be directed toward the country's battle against climate change.

"The Maldives and China have enjoyed excellent bilateral relations, and there are many areas that can be developed through Chinese involvement and engagement in the Maldives," Latheef said in an interview with the Global Times. "We would welcome initiatives from Chinese investors in the development of tourist resorts."

China's National Day holiday is drawing near, and it is expected that many Chinese will go to the Maldives. Statistics show that 41,511 Chinese tourists visited the Maldives in 2008, an increase of 15.4 percent over 2007.

Chinese tourist arrivals in the Maldives have surpassed all expectations of the industry in recent years, according to Latheef. "At present, China is the second from the top after the UK," he said. "It is very likely that before the end of the year, China will top the list."

"The difficulty we have at the moment is that we do not have enough hotels or beds to cater to the growing market in China. Therefore, efforts are being made to develop new hotels and tourist resorts," Latheef added.
Latheef said that since the Maldives started developing its tourism industry in the early 1970s, it has been aware of the need to find a balance between development and environmental protection.

"To develop sustainable tourism, environment protection is a key element," he said. "We have very strict rules, regulations and obligations that are seriously followed by all stakeholders. Stringent policies on environmental protection are in place, and they are closely followed and monitored."

However, Latheef said climate change and global warming are threatening the country's marine environment and bio diversification that attract millions of visitors every year.

"In the Maldives we are already seeing the effects of climate change and global warming," he said, noting that "the unprecedented changes in weather patterns" have led to serious beach erosion and the death of sea coral.
The average height of the Maldives islands is less than two meters above sea level, and some islands are barely one meter above sea level. "The rise of sea level will be catastrophic and could lead to the displacement of the entire population and submerge the whole country," Latheef warned.

The Maldives has embarked on an ambitious plan to become carbon neutral by the year 2020. But Latheef said that as a small developing country, the Maldives needs more help to address this global challenge.
"We have wind throughout the year, but we do not have the turbines that turn the wind into energy," Latheef commented. "We have waves all around our tiny islands, but we do not have the motors to turn them into energy either."

Latheef said although the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference did not live up to the expectations of the international community, he is looking forward to the Cancun Summit on climate change that is going to be held in Mexico in November.


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