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Satellite Restaurant, a transit restaurant popular among visitors to Maldives, located at the Male International Airport, is to be leased from February 1. The restaurant will be leased for a period of 10 years. Bid documents can be bought from the Maldives Airports Company office at the airport from today (January 19) to January 29. The price of a bid document is Rf1,500 (about US$116).

Tourism Promotion Advisory Council has passed the Tourism Ministry's plan on advertising Maldives tourism overseas this year.

At a meeting Monday, the 12-member council also passed a budget of Rf40 million (about US$3.1 million) for the plan.


The plan includes advertising campaigns, stipends for personnel, and on operating the Maldives tourism representative office in Frankfurt, Germany.


The Tourism Promotion Advisory Council consists of officials from the Tourism Ministry, Maldives Tourism Promotion Board, Maldives' travel industry, Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Finance Ministry, the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Foreign Ministry.

Most of the 90 plus resort islands of Maldives are fully booked until April, officials said.

"This is in part because presently Maldives is experiencing the Northeast Monsoon season when there is sunshine and no rain," a tourism official said.


Occupancy at resort islands these days are high, and recent statistics showed that the number of nights spent by tourists in Maldives resorts marked an increase of 15.8 percent in 2003 compared to the previous year.

Flights between Maldives and China will start on Jan 19. There are three flights arranged for this month which will shuttle between Beijing and Male between Jan 19 and 26.

Villa Travels and Tours, which is the handling agent for these flights, have also opened the opportunity for Maldivians to travel to Beijing during this period. A special US$399 package allows any Maldivian to travel to Beijing, stay in a three-star hotel and go on excursions, including to see the Great Wall of China.


Flights between Maldives and China will allow Chinese tourists to travel to Maldives, the Tourism Ministry said. Maldives is one of the few countries to which the Chinese government allows its nationals to travel to.


It is not clear yet how longterm flight schedules for the rest of the year will be planned ahead between Maldives and China.

Maldives attained great success for its tourism industry during last year, Tourism Minister Hassan Sobir said.

The tourism product quality has greatly improved, and so has Maldives' reputation and international standing, the minister said. Sobir said that more efforts will be made in the new year to further improve the Maldives tourism industry.


This includes setting up flight operations between Maldives and China.


Further, it is hoped that Maldives will soon establish flight routes to many Indian cities as well.

Maldives tourism industry must remain united as it faces a challenging new year, Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) chairman Mohamed Umar Maniku said.

"We stand steadfast today in harmony and we solemnly vow to unite and stand up to face the onslaught of challenges and threats placed in the way of charting the course of the future of the Maldives tourism industry," Maniku told the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of MATI held in Male' last week.


Maniku stressed the importance of Maldives tourism industry being flexible to cater to individual demands of guests.


"It has shown the world yet again that the fundamental features of what makes our product uniquely Maldivian can be very successfully transformed and re-invented over and over again to sustain the demands placed upon it, most importantly, without losing its personality, charm and unique Maldivian character," he said.


While learning from others in enhancing quality and value is important, the character that contributes to our own unique strengths must not be overlooked as it is the Maldivian product that we have so successfully managed to keep in the enviable position of being always in demand in the international marketplace, Maniku elaborated.


"Our own unique Maldivian qualities are those that cannot be replicated by competitors. Those qualities we must guard zealously as our very own and as the edge that gives us the competitive advantage that we need to differentiate from our competitors," he said.


Maniku said that Maldives tourism industry must constantly add on features that a changing market, a metrosexual marketplace is demanding without detracting from the total Maldives experience, features that enhance development, create harmony, peace and co-existence in sustaining the resources of the world.


The chairman said that he wished to bring attention to the fact that Maldives is now faced with many agendas known and unknown, covert and overt, thrown at us by our competitors in the quest for greater competition. At no time like the present is our vigilance demanded in combating the forces known and unknown to us in becoming more aware of the threats to our security aimed at derailing us off the competitive path, he said.


"My message to you today is that no matter what challenges and barriers others may put in front of us, we must know our own place in the face of competition, we must know who we are as a destination and the exact position we are aiming for, of the competitive landscape, and strive to achieve that, so that we can look at others' efforts from our own vantage point and say to ourselves that is a world in which all of us can compete in harmony," Maniku said.

Maldives has established flight links with Hungary. The first flight from Hungary's national carrier touched down at the Male International Airport last week.

Villa Travels and Tours, the handling agent in the Maldives, said that Hungary will operate a Boeing 767 plane with 200 passenger capacity as its flights to Maldives.


Under prospects of expanding tourism in 2004, Maldives is now aiming to attract East European tourists in addition to tourists from Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland.


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