Role Of India In Development Of Tourism In Maldives
08 JANUARY 2024
George Corbin from Italy discovered potential of tourism in Maldives in 1972. Rapid growth of industry over the last 50 years could not have been possible with contributions from several countries. The role of India is significant, particularly in human resource development. When the first batch of tourists arrived the Maldivians were unaware of their culture and struggled in treating them. People who could speak in English engaged with the guests, learned from mistakes and improved. When it took shape of an industry, about 30 or 40 years back, the need for developing human resource was remarkable.
United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and European Economic Community (EEC) assisted the Maldives open its the country's first hospitality training centre as School of Hotel and Catering Services. Few years later it was rebranded to Institute of Hotel and Catering Services (IHCS). Currently the institute is managed by the Maldives National University, as Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies (FHTS).
The current building of FHTS, with 4 fully equipped kitchens, is a generous grant from India. Inaugurated as "India-Maldives Friendship Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies"
, is the biggest hospitality training centre in the country.
Maldives Finest is the luxury holiday division of Priority Maldives. I am Ahmed Shareef, Founder and Destination Specialist of the company. I enrolled in a programme at FHTS 20 years ago, word of mouth in the college was that India was generously assisting for purchase of equipment. Years after, inaugurating the fully developed facility with complete resource, under grant aid from India, signifies its important role in development of tourism sector in the Maldives.
India is among the top foreign beneficiaries of Maldives tourism. Indians make up a large segment of workforce in resorts. From general managers to frontliners Indians are known for working in every level.
Maldives Finest do not offer budget holidays. We are aware that most of the Indians seek less expensive resorts and packages. Since India is a big market a small portion of luxury tourists become significant for travel agents like us. Unlike classic agents we offer highly customized packages that are perfect for guest preferences. For example, an Indian couple who visited Maldives in last December through us stayed in 2 luxury resorts, experienced a luxury yacht and celebrated a special event in an underwater restaurant. Their package was US$55,000 for 10 nights at cheaper rates than direct resort rates. Under the VIP service we arranged they did not even see arrival or departure terminal in airport. On their arrival they were received at flight stairs and escorted to a lounge. Passport processing took place as they enjoyed drinks and sacks in comfort of the lounge. That was just the airport service.
Who Is Mr. Sonu Shivdasani?
Widely known as the pioneer of modern luxury tourism in the Maldives, Sonu Shivdasani currently owns and operates 3 resorts in the Maldives. His first ever visit to the Maldives was as a tourist. After experiencing charm of island and Maldivian hospitality he wanted to build his second home in the Maldives. Few years down road the he opened Soneva Fushi in 1995. Then there were no luxury resorts and international brands in the country. He opened the resort under the concept of barefoot luxury and it was the beginning of world's finest tourism we witness today.
Mr. Sonu Shivdasani is an Indian, he has lived in the Maldives for over 25 years.
Even though the idea was a second home he might be have spend more time in Maldives than any other. His business is thriving. The luxury resort he founded in 1995 has been upgraded several times over the years. In 2023 Soneva Fushi was awarded #7 by "The World's 50 Best Hotels 2023". Soneva Jani won #36 on the same. His latest resort is called Soneva Secret which as opened ealier this year
as a private island retreat where chefs can prepare meals in the villa.
Sonu is also well recognised for his sustainability initiatives. Under the programme "Waste To Wealth" the Soneva resorts recycle waste and use it for various purposes. Recently launched Soneva Namoona is a community development programme which has been happening for several years before the official launch. While the local community appreciates his contribution he seems to have focused wholly at the Maldives for growth of the company.
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