The Maldives kicked off its first ever guesthouse conference on Saturday with over 160 guesthouse owners in attendance.
Organised by local public relations and marketing firm, Maldives Getaways, the conference titled “BML Guesthouses Maldives Conference” was held at Dharubaaruge convention centre in capital Male, attended by guesthouse owners, and local and international travel agents and tour operators. The one-day conference focussed on discussions to advance the guesthouse industry and bring in more tourists to the Maldives.
With Bank of Maldives Ltd (BML) as its title sponsor, the conference saw a number of speeches by local veterans, including Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO)’s CEO Abdulla Giyas, Capital Market Development Authority (CMDA)’s CEO Ahmed Naseer and local aviation giant Mega Maldives’ Director Mifzal Ahmed. Prominent international experts also included their input in the conference, such as American Express Asia Pacific’s director Kurus Dasthoor, India’s largest online booking site Expedia’s senior marketing manager Abhay Khanna, Booking.com’s account manager Seesan Johnson and Vista Rooms’ co-founder Amit Damani.
In his opening speech, Maldives Getaways’ director Hussain Sunny Umar noted that the guesthouse industry is advancing daily in the Maldives and stated that the aim of the trade now is to bring in 500,000 tourists annually to the island nation.
BML seconded Sunny’s declaration and asserted its efforts to achieve the target. Speaking at the conference, BML’s CEO Andrew Healy declared that the bank’s services such as ATMs, credit cards and online payment gateways have already proven highly profitable to guesthouses. He highlighted that over half of the guesthouses in the Maldives have benefited from BML’s loans of MVR 2 billion so far released this year.
He also stressed the importance of bringing in more tourists as well as more investments for tourism and other sectors in the Maldives.
Currently there are over 390 guesthouses in operation across the Maldives. The island of Maafushi in Kaafu atoll, the pioneer in guesthouse business, boasts more than 45 guesthouses while the business continues to expand in other regions. Official statistics also indicate that the number of tourists spending their vacations at guesthouses is increasing exponentially.