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Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa this week reported that every evening its undersea restaurant is "house full", according to the resort's General Manager, Carsten Schieck.

The world's first all-glass undersea restaurant opened at Rangali island where the Hilton is located has tagged a meal at US$170 for full board guests, according to Carsten Schieck. The restaurant, opened on 20 April 2005, and named Ithaa (Maldivian for 'Pearl'), offers a novel blend of local and continental cuisine.

 

"We take local spices and flavours and give them an international twist to create a fusion cuisine that you could find in the best restaurants in London or New York" says Schieck. Ithaa sits 5m below the waves and is surrounded by a coral reef on one side and the resort's lagoon on the other. The resort confirms that the restaurant is not only popular with its guests, but also welcomes sting rays, sharks and barracuda as regular visitors, albeit on the other side of the glass.

 

The restaurant was designed by New Zealand architects, constructed in Singapore with material from the United States and then shipped to Rangali island.

The tourist occupancy rate for Maldives last month was at 61.8 percent, according to figures released by the Tourism Ministry.

In April 2005, 13,888 beds were in operation in 69 resorts/hotels in the archipelago.

 

While the tourist arrival figures for the first quarter of this year had marked a decline of 53 percent compared to the year-ago period due to December's tsunami and March's tsunami scare, the Tourism Ministry noted that a more enhanced campaign would be needed over the coming days to help Maldives' tourism rebound.

In order to protect investors and raise the standards of investments in Maldives’ resorts, the private lobby group MATI has asked the government to set the minimum lease period of resorts at 50 years.

Presently, the government’s minimum lease period is 25 years. However, if the initial investment is US$10 million, the lease period is adjusted to 35 years. Under the present regulations, a resort is leased for 50 years only if the company operating the resort floats its shares to the public.

 

In the annual report of Maldives Association of Tourism Industry, which represents local industry insiders, MATI also pointed out that the Tourism Ministry had agreed to take the matter to the People’s Majlis, Maldives’ parliament.

 

MATI also noted that the lease amount of resorts should also be subject to review every five to seven years.

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry, the country’s most influential local tourism lobby group, recently held a meeting to discuss ways to promote Maldives tourism in the aftermath of the tsunami.

MATI members spoke on the need to coordinate private efforts with government programs to make a stronger pitch in the international arena for Maldives tourism.

 

Members also addressed the important issue of coordinating protective measures which individual resorts can undertake in future in the unlikely event of a tsunami or a natural disaster.

 

MATI members also spoke on the importance of giving advice to the Tourism Ministry and the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board on how best to spend the government’s budget of US$4 million allocated to promote Maldives’ tourism.

Maldives will sign an air services agreement with the United States on Thursday, 5 May 2005.

The agreement will allow US airlines to operate chartered and scheduled flights to Maldives giving a boost to tourism, trade and economy of the Maldives, the department of civil aviation said.

 

“US authorities will inform its airlines that Maldives’ skies are now open for them,” Director General of Civil Aviation Mahmood Razi said.

 

The air services agreement will be signed by Maldives’ ambassador in the US, Dr. Mohamed Latheef, and US Transportation Secretary Norman Minetta.

 

Maldives and US started discussions on the air services agreement at the 35th annual general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Maldives’ most influential tourism lobby group, Maldives Association of Tourism Industry, has decided to build a simple four-storey administrative office.

The building will be located on the southern side of the capital Male facing a major street, Amini Magu.

 

MATI expects to spend around US$600,000 to construct its new offices.

Two seminars to promote Maldives tourism will be held in South Korea on 11 and 13 May 2005, Maldives Tourism Promotion Board announced.

The purpose of the seminars, titled Product Seminar, will be to make South Korea tourists and tour operators aware that Maldives is still a safe destination to travel despite the tsunami during last December, said MTPB’s Director Dr. Abdulla Mausoom.

 

He said that South Korea is an emerging market with 9,000 tourist arrivals recorded here last year which is a 14 percent increase over the previous year’s figures.

 

The seminars will also be open to the media, according to Dr. Mausoom.

 

Two such successful seminars were earlier held in China and Japan, two important tourist markets for Maldives.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on Sunday night officially opened One&Only Reethi Rah resort in Maldives.

In his speech at the function, he expressed his confidence that the tourism industry would rebound from the effects of the tsunami, through vigorous marketing and promotional activities. He highlighted the importance of getting the message out to key markets across the world that the Maldivian tourism product remained as attractive as ever. He went on to note that sustainable national recovery could only be achieved when the industry had recovered.

 

The President pointed out that, over the past 30 years, tourism had played a vital role in the sustained development of the country’s economy. He said that the natural beauty of the Maldives alone did not account for the remarkable run of success that the country had enjoyed, and went on to note that the vision of the entrepreneurs, the commitment of those engaged in the sector, government policy and the support of the entire nation, had played a crucial role in that achievement.

 

The President said that the Chairman of Sultans of the Seas, Mohamed Adil was a young and dynamic entrepreneur, who epitomised the future of tourism in the Maldives. He noted that the opening of One&Only Reethi Rah was evidence of the tourism industry’s determination to recover after as quickly as possible the tsunami. He further said that it was a resounding statement of confidence, and that it sends a strong message that the tourism product in the Maldives was still as appealing as ever.

 

The President noted that One&Only was a company with an established global reputation for operating five-star deluxe resorts, and that Reethi Rah was the second resort to be developed and operated by the company in the Maldives. Pointing out that the Maldives already had the benefit of a very successful relationship with One&Only in Kanuhura, the President said that Kanuhura had attained several international awards in a short span of time.

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