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For the first time since the advent of tourism into the Maldives 31 years ago, the country has recorded half a million tourist arrivals in a given year.

An Italian tourist on Wednesday, Nov 26, was stamped the 500,000th tourist at the immigration counter at Male International Airport. The young tourist, Ms Valeria Vavasori, is visiting Maldives with her boyfriend through an Italian tour operator. They are to spend an 8-day vacation at Macchafushi resort island.


Ms Vavasori and her partner, who arrived on a EuroFly flight, were given a warm welcome at the airport by Tourism Minister Hassan Sobir and officials from the Tourism Ministry, Maldives Tourism Promotion Board, and the tourism industry.


Ms Vavasori is now entitled to two free round-the-world first class air tickets, and two weeks free stay for two in Maldives over the next two years.


The Tourism Ministry said that it is expected that Maldives will record 530,000 tourists before the end of this year.

Maldives Tourism Ministry and Maldives Tourism Promotion Board have started a countdown to half a million tourist arrivals to the country.

The countdown is published daily in local newspapers.


Tourism Minister Hassan Sobir said that the 500,000th tourist is expected to arrive in the Maldives before the end of the month.


In a press release, the Tourism Ministry said that it expected to record between 530,000 to 550,000 tourist arrivals in the Maldives before the end of the year.

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Twelve people have won free tickets to visit Maldives during the Maldives Evening function held recently in the United Kingdom.

The function was held at Home House, a famous private club in London, on Nov 11. It was organized by the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) and parties involved in the Maldives travel industry.


More than 200 people attended the function, which was held in conjunction with the World Travel Market (WTM) which was held in the UK from Nov 10 to 13.

Maldives' participation of the World Travel Market (WTM) in the United Kingdom has been a great success, Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) said.

Visitors to the Maldives stall at WTM, the world's second largest travel fair, and the UK's biggest travel fair, increased compared to last time, MTPB said.


"Maldives attracted the attention of many tour operators and international media," an official said. WTM was held in Excel, London, from 10 to 13 November.


Crown Tours was represented at the fair together with the MTPB at the stand AS-1080.

Tourist arrivals to the Maldives last month marked a 13.6 percent increase compared to October last year, the Tourism Ministry revealed.

There were 48,347 arrivals last month compared to 42,579 arrivals in Oct 2002, according to statistics released by the ministry.


Most tourist arrivals -- a total of 8,491 -- last month were from Italy.


The Tourism Ministry said that it expects more than half a million visitors to the Maldives before the end of this month.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was on Tuesday, Nov 11, sworn in for a five-year sixth term in office.

After taking the oath of office, Gayoom addressed the People's Majlis (parliament) and said that over the next five years, his administration will undertake necessary steps for national reform, including among them plans to diversify Maldives' tourism product.


"We will take all measures to protect and promote local investments, and at the same time, attract foreign investments," Gayoom told the 50-member parliament.


Maldives presently has more than 90 resort islands, and tourism forms the backbone of the economy, contributing more than 30 percent to GDP.

World Travel Market (WTM) 2003 started today, Nov 10, in the United Kingdom.

The WTM, the second largest travel fair in the world, will continue until Nov 13 at ExCel, London.


Tour operators, agencies and parties from the Maldives' travel industry are participating the WTM.


Crown Tours is being represented at the fair together with the Maldives Promotion Board at the stand AS-1080.

Filitheyo and Vilamendhoo, two resorts run by Maldives' AAA Hotels and Resorts, have been voted among the world's 100 best resorts by the internationally renown Thomas Cook travel agency.

AAA company's Director of Sales and Marketing, Ali Shiyam, will receive the award on behalf of Filitheyo and Vilamendhoo at a ceremony Saturday, Nov 8, in Germany.


Filitheyo and Vilamendhoo were honored from among a survey conducted by Thomas Cook among its travelers worldwide. The Thomas Cook group, with 160 years as the longest serving and internationally best known name in travel, encompasses 32 tour operators, about 3,600 travel agencies, a portfolio of 76,000 controlled hotel beds, a fleet of 87 aircraft and a workforce numbering some 28,000.


The company is represented in the sales markets of Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Egypt, India and Canada. More information about the Thomas Cook group is available at www.thomascook.com

The Villa group is making arrangements to set up an international diving institute in the Maldives.

Affiliated with overseas universities and institutions, the institute will train both locals and foreigners to dive masters level, according to Villa group's chairman Gasim Ibrahim.


"We are already in the process of setting up the institute. Diving is a very important field for tourism-oriented Maldives," Gasim was quoted as saying.


The institute can train around 40 people at any given time.


Villa Group this year trained 15 locals in the field of diving under the Villa Scholarship Scheme.


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