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The tourism ministry has started a new round of checking standards of services available in the 90 plus resort islands of the Maldives. The checking will include resorts, hotels, and safari yachts as well, an official said. During the last round, some 44 resort islands were checked to see that services available met the requirements set by the government.

Tourist arrivals to the Maldives for the January to November 2003 period recorded an increase of 17.4 percent compared to the same period of last year.

The Tourism Ministry revealed that 505,328 tourists arrived here during the January-November 2003 period, in contrast to the 430,565 arrivals recorded for the same period of 2002.

 

Most tourists arriving in Maldives for the January to November 2003 period were from Italy; according to statistics released from the tourism ministry, there were 124,897 Italian tourist arrivals to Maldives. This is a 25.3 percent increase compared to the figures of November 2002, the Tourism Ministry said.

 

Italians make up almost a quarter of total tourist arrivals to the Maldives, the tourism ministry added, putting the figure at 24.7 percent.

 

This is the first year that more than half a million tourist arrivals were recorded in the Maldives since the tourism industry was established 31 years ago.

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), an organisation which represents Maldives tourism industry, plans to build a nine-storey office building to overcome space shortages and costs.

The government has given a 5,000 square feet land plot from a block near Television Maldives, MATI's secretary general Sim Ibrahim Mohamed said.

 

The building will be constructed through contributions of MATI members who are hotel operators and through loans from banks, he said.

 

The new quarters will be a multi-purpose office complex complete with seminar rooms, convention halls, and office floors.

 

MATI also plans to include a recreation club and day rooms for staff of resort islands who visit the capital Male' during non-working days.

 

MATI estimates the cost of constructing the building at US$2 million (about Rf25 million).

Indonesia is seeking to gain information and experience from the success story of Maldives tourism, and thereby, a team of experts from Indonesia were in Maldives last week to exchange hotel experience.

The team, including experts from the Indonesian tourism authorities, visited some resort islands of Maldives, and sought firsthand information on how resorts were build in self-sustaining and environmentally friendly ways in the fragile Maldives.

 

Indonesia itself consists of many islands, and developing of resorts has to be undertaken in the same manner, according to Indonesian officials.

 

The Indonesian team wrapped up its visit to Maldives during the weekend.

The World Tourism Organisation has given funds to conduct a human resources program aimed at the tourism sector of Maldives.

Under the program, efforts will be made to train as many Maldivians as possible to fill employment in all levels of the tourism sector.

 

The Maldives' Tourism Ministry is presently conducting a research to identify areas in the tourism industry where human resources need to be developed to prepare more locals for jobs.

The Tourism Ministry of India is inspired by the success story of Maldives' tourism and will follow in Maldives' footsteps to plan and build the tourism sector of India, Indian newspapers said.

The ministry is to present to the Indian Cabinet a plan "to pattern tourism development in the Andamans and Lakshadweep on the supremely successful Maldives, which lets private developers in but keeps a tight control on its environment to lure the high-value tourist," a newspaper reported.

 

Maldives and India enjoy high level economic contacts, and during Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's state visit to Maldives, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Vajpayee agreed to work on bilateral cooperation in developing the tourism sector of both countries.

Sri Lanka's domestic airline, Serendib Express, will soon start international operations to Maldives, India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, an official said.

The airline has been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka to operate international flights, and soon hopes to start flights to Maldives to promote tourism between Sri Lanka and Maldives. The airline will also airlift cargo.

 

Many tourists visiting South Asia visit Maldives and Sri Lanka on "dual" packages, and Serendib will greatly contribute to promoting bilateral, regional and international tourism.

 

Serendib Express operates under Aero lanka Private Ltd which is a subsidiary of a US-based aviation company.

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