50 years of tourism in the Maldives

50 years of tourism in the Maldives

On October 3, 1972, the first resort in the Maldives, Kurumba Maldives, opened. Today, 50 years later, the Maldives are a dream destination for people from all over the world. In 2022, over a million tourists have already traveled to the island state, including many from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Since April 12, 1966, the Maldives has not only been accessible by ship, but also by plane with the opening of Hulhule Airport, the island nation’s first airport. The first tourists arrived six years later at today’s dream destination: In February 1972, the Italian tour operator George Corbyn brought the first travelers to the Maldives. At that time they still stayed in simple accommodations, which slowly changed on October 3, 1972 with the opening of the Kurumba Maldives Resort. In the years that followed, more resorts opened, including what is now the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, and local tourism gradually took off.

In November 1981, Hulhule Airport was expanded and reopened as Malé International Airport. Shortly thereafter, the first direct flight from Europe to the Maldives took place. The first seaplane transfers were introduced in 1994 due to increasing demand and resorts located further away from the airport. Thus, the success of Maldivian tourism continued its course, which in 2003 resulted in over 500,000 holidaymakers for the first time.

In 2008 and 2009, the further development of tourism was focused again. This also included the fact that tourists had the opportunity to stay in local guesthouses from 2009, which opened up further target groups and created more intensive travel experiences. On March 4, 2010, the Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation was also founded, so that three years later, the international promotion of the travel destination could count over one million tourists for the first time. In 2019, the Maldives welcomed 1.7 million travellers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Maldives was one of the first countries to reopen borders to tourists, with 1.3 million people traveling to the Maldives in 2021 and 1.6 million tourists expected in 2022, despite the global challenges.

“The journey of the Maldives over the past 50 years is a story of dreams and perseverance,” says Thoyyib Mohamed, Managing Director of Visit Maldives. «We have changed the entire archipelago in this short time and are now one of the most luxurious travel destinations in the world. A holiday in the Maldives is a dream shared by millions of people worldwide. But the unparalleled beauty that made the Maldives so special all those years ago is still the same today. Our turquoise waters, scenic islands and stunning underwater ecosystem continue to enchant travelers today. We will also cherish these elements on our further tourist journey.»

Sustainability in focus

The Maldivian government, local communities and the country’s resorts all play their part in protecting the environment in which the almost 1,200 islands are located. The protection of the corals plays an important role here. Since 2005 there have been projects to restore coral reefs, and there are now techniques that allow the corals to grow between 10 and 15 centimeters a year. The coral frames required for this are made on a local island in Baa Atoll and are used by numerous resorts in the Maldives.

The island nation’s sea creatures are also a focus of efforts, so there are several initiatives to protect them. Among other things, numerous turtle rescue centers contribute to this, where marine biologists and veterinarians have access to medical facilities to rehabilitate injured turtles.

Locals have also been informed about sustainability issues for years, so that various programs to protect the environment have emerged. This includes, for example, regularly cleaning the beaches and reefs of the local islands, developing renewable energy sources, educating local people about responsible fishing and much more.

In 2019, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih used his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York to announce a comprehensive phasing out of single-use plastics in the Maldives. It is planned that by 2023 small plastic bottles in particular will no longer be available. There have also been recycling plants for plastic since 2018.

Sustainability efforts are also already reflected in the development of new resorts in the Maldives, such as The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, which opened in June 2021. For example, many prefabricated components were used in the construction of the resort in order to keep the vibrations during construction as low as possible. A greater part of the energy is obtained from solar energy and the water is recycled and purified in the plant. The wind and the orientation of the villas were also coordinated in such a way that the natural breeze is used for cooling and air conditioning is avoided as far as possible.