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Maldives Association of Yacht Agents (MAYA) has expressed concern over the delay in amending the Regulation on Operation and Porting of Cruise Liners within Maldivian Waters. Agents of luxury yachts and cruise liners have been urging the government to amend the regulations for two years since it came into effect in 2008 claiming, “Maldives is being wiped off the maps of luxury yacht captains.”

Mohamed ‘Bunny’ Ali, Secretary General of MAYA raised concern over reduced national revenues saying the amendment delays were to blame. “Two years is adequate for amending a regulation. There are many people who don’t want to come [to Maldives], because the regulation is not rectified. They are saying that Maldives is a covetous nation.” Managing Director of Antrack Maldives, Mohamed Hameed said passenger liners and luxury yachts that came to Maldives do not want to stay long anymore for fear of pirates. “The main issue is that the fees charged by the government are high. They want to stay in Maldives for a few days,” he said.
MAYA sent to local media a copy of a letter submitted to the Tourism Ministry last month by international cruise liner agents. The letter warned the government of cancelling their plans to start businesses in the Maldives late this year and early next year. The ministry’s response said, while the regulations were being amended, it was unable to give an exact date of completion. Ahmed Solih, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry said final draft of the amended regulations has been sent to Attorney General’s Office after discussions with relevant authorities. “The regulation will come into effect as soon as Attorney General’s Office sends it back. The process is taking time, as it involves customs, immigrations and other authorities,” he said.

The Maldives' Cabinet has decided to prohibit trade and export of sharks and shark products in order to protect the environment on which Maldives’ economic mainstay, tourism, is based on. The ban will come into effect on 1 July 2010.

A Cabinet meeting deliberated on a paper submitted on the issue and decided to enforce the decision on banning shark hunting in the Maldives beginning from 1 March 2010. It was also decided that the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture would assist shark fishermen to find alternative livelihoods.
Studies conducted by independent parties have argued that the Maldives will benefit more from "shark watching" than "shark hunting." "Tourists come to enjoy Maldives for its unique beauty and peace. They prefer to watch Nature rather than disturb its delicate balance," a travel agent said.
 

Four international parties have expressed interest in managing Herathere Island Resort in Addu Atoll, according to Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). MTDC opened the opportunity on February 6 for interested parties to submit proposals before March 9, and there were no local proposals, the company said. The companies include, Santra Hotels and Resorts of Thailand, Amaary Kalaz and Rhythms of Thailand, Pan Pacific Hotel Group of Singapore and Switzerland’s Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts.

Santra Hotels has 30 years of experience with 20 resorts in operation while Amaary currently manages 11 resorts with 45 years of experience in the industry. Pan Pacific Hotels, formerly Hotel Plaza Limited (HPL) has 30 resorts and hotels in operation and Mövenpick runs 90 hotels specializing in first-class service. MTDC said it would provide opportunities to submit bids, after evaluating the interested parties, according to the Memorandum of Information (MOI). The MOI requires MTDC to complete the evaluation process within seven days and give a 21-day period for submission of bids.
“The Directors Board will decide on the eligible bidders after considering the proposals. We shall provide the opportunity to all the eligible parties,” an MTDC official said. According to the tender announcement, the opportunity to submit proposals was open to both local and international parties with a minimum experience of running a four star, 300-bed hotel for five years. The applicant should be able to procure funds from an international bank and pay a non-refundable deposit of US$ 7-10 million to MTDC, at the time of signing the contract. MTDC also requested the companies to submit supporting documents as proof for their experience, financial situation and availability of funds.
 

Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) has withdrawn its US$35.5 million civil suit against Air Maldives (AML), which it filed in 2004. The Maldives government has also withdrawn a US$90 million claim filed with the Singapore based International Court of Arbitration on March 1. 

Under the agreement, the two airlines have agreed to put an end to all legal proceedings in Malaysia and Singapore. The agreement paves the way for MAS and the Maldives Government to develop new business opportunities for the Kuala Lumpur-Male' sector and other destinations in India.
Maldives’ tourism entrepreneurs have praised the decision as "far-reaching in its aim for both countries to pave way in achieving mutual benefits from tourism -- a critical industry to most South Asian and Southeast Asian economies."
 

British Airways (BA) says it will operate 60 per cent of its longhaul flights, including to Maldives, during a planned cabin crew strike this weekend. All longhaul flights from Gatwick, to The Maldives, Tampa, Orlando, Egypt and the Caribbean, will operate as usual. Britain is among the top 5 tourist markets for Maldives whose mainstay is tourism and its related businesses.

The airline has given more details of its schedules to cover 20, 21, 22 March, the first three days of the strike by members of the Unite union, reports British Channel 4. The airline says its revised schedule will mean around 45,000 of customers being able to fly on all those days.
BA says only 30 per cent of its short haul schedule will run, despite the airline leasing 22 aircraft with crews from eight other airlines.

The first overseas property to be opened by Thailand's Centara Hotels & Resorts, the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives, located at the South Ari Atoll in the Republic of Maldives, is attracting favorable reports from guests, according to TripAdvisor.com. The resort, which opened in November 2009, is regularly attracting five-star ratings from holidaymakers, the highest level that can be awarded.

TripAdvisor.com is a free travel guide and research website that assists customers in gathering travel information, posting opinions of travel related issues and engaging in interactive travel forums. "We regard TripAdvisor as an extremely valuable feedback resource that lets us know, no-holds-barred, what our guests really think of our hotels and resorts," says Chris Bailey, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Centara Hotels & Resorts. "Ninety percent of guests contributing on TripAdvisor have given us a full five-star rating, and we are consistently attracting very favorable comments across our entire range of services."
Quality of the food was commented on by many of the guests. "Being Thai, the attention to detail was wonderful - the food particularly was amazing, every lunchtime and night a different buffet. Beautifully presented, fresh and a great variety," was a typical comment. The quality of the snorkeling has been reported on by many guests, as snorkel diving is an integral part of the resort. Everyone commenting on the staff had favorable comments to make.

Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) has announced that the Maldives would take part in the ITB Berlin Fair which will be held in Germany from 10 to 14 March 2010. Crown Tours Maldives is represented at the fair and its delegation have already arrived in Berlin.

“The first three days of the fair would be open for travel and tradeindustry. In order to advertise Maldives, MTPB plans to organise atourism evening and a press conference,” the MTPB said in a statement.
Maldives hoteliers and tour operators participated last year’s ITB Berlin Fair which saw 11,000 companies represented from 187 countries. Some estimates indicate that over 178,000 people had visited last year’s fair.
Germany is among Maldives’ Top Ten tourist markets with 69,000 arrivals recorded last year which accounts for 10.5 percent of total visitors to Maldives. MTPB also announced that it has decided to take part in 17 fairs in 13 countries.

Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has urged Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to allot at least 51 percent of beds at Herethere Island Resort in Addu atoll, to Maldivian tour operators. The proposal was made days after the public cooperation MTDC invited both local and international parties to submit proposals to run the 456-bed resort located in Addu atoll, south of the Equator.

In a letter to Mohamed Mihad, the Managing Director of MTDC, the association said it was important to open opportunities to local tour operators, during the current downturn faced by the industry due to the global economic recession. Mohamed Maleeh, Secretary General of MATATO, said that local tour operators now have limited opportunities to compete ably in the industry, adding that MTDC can now act to bring about positive results.
“Even if we look at the situation in Sri Lanka, they give priority to local tour operators. As many Maldivians hold shares in MTDC, we need to open more opportunities to Maldivian tour operators,” he said. MATATO was formed in mid-2006, when MTDC was developing Herethere Island Resort. Since its inception, the association has been urging MTDC to allocate more beds from its resorts to Maldivian tour operators.
 

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