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Flourishing Seeds of the Maldives’ Guesthouse Business

Benefits from local tourism are not exclusive to hoteliers - other complimentary forays into hospitality can blossom as well!

Ahmed Aiham
09 January 2020, MVT 09:47
Overhead view of Kottafaru Guesthouse in Hanimaadhoo, Haa Dhaal Atoll. PHOTO: HAWWA AMANY ABDULLA/ THE EDITION
Ahmed Aiham
09 January 2020, MVT 09:47

Maldives' local tourism industry is growing at a massive rate, and since the country's first guesthouse was established in 2008, the market itself has grown and evolved immensely.

Central Atolls such as Kaafu Atoll, Alifu Alifu Atoll, Alifu Dhaalu Atoll and Vaavu Atoll have emerged as premier tourist destinations. However, most islands lack businesses and facilities that one would expect to be established hand in hand as guesthouse tourism flourishes.

The largest number of tourist arrivals based on countries hail from China (230,349), followed by India (115,507), Italy (97,375), Germany (93,727), the United Kingdom (90,963) and Russia (58,306). PHOTO: HAWWA AMANY ABDULLA / AHMED MAANIS / BRANDS OF MALDIVES

As it would be difficult for a guesthouse to accommodate every facility that a tourist may require, there is a huge demand for specialized businesses to establish themselves at these destinations.

In the words of an economics teacher from Keyodhoo, Vaavu Atoll, as the guesthouse business expands, only a few businesses develop alongside the industry.

“The business is run mostly by those who do not properly understand it. This sort of businesses require longterm planning. There are many important opportunities that crop up for private individuals”, said the teacher.

In the hopes of inspiring local entrepreneurs and those that invest in them, here are some forms of business that duly complement and help tourism local tourism, lifting the burden off of guesthouses, and spreading the likely income across a community.

Patisseries

Ever since guesthouses began emerging in local islands, the demand for baked goods and especially pastries, have grown significantly high.

Bread and other forms of pastry are mostly imported to islands through capital city Male’. However, to tackle the issue, a shop could instead be opened on the specific island itself, thus providing an avenue for the economy of the island to grow and eliminating the business’ dependency on another island, and associated costs.

Cafe and Restaurants

Several islands that feature guesthouses, also boast a number of cafes and restaurants.

It is understood that guests prefer having multiple options on the island during their stay. One way to assure mutual growith is for a variety of cafes and restaurants to each specialize in a particular cuisine, especially catering to those vying to sample a taste of traditional Maldivian offerings.

Spas

Although most guesthouses cater to middle-income guests, a spa may be an attractive, as well as useful, facility where tourists can unwind after a long day of snorkelling, diving or watersports.

As spas are mostly found based at the many luxury resorts in the country, guests that visit local islands will surely be drawn to a multipurpose spa facility. On islands where traditional medicine and massages are commonplace, it may even revive the dying art. It would certainly serve as a memorable experience to receive a treatment formulated from locally sourced products like coconut oil, in a serene island setting.

Tours and Guides

A tour guide, as the name suggests, is a person who guides tourists and offers information about their destination. As the islands making up Maldives are geographically displaced, and because all islands are unique in their own right, the guide must interpret the cultural and natural heritage of each destination as well as possessing factual knowledge of the island.

He or she must also be able to disseminate such information to those who visit the island. For young folk eager to fine-tune their ability to converse in languages or who enjoy socially engaging work, this is a wonderful opportunity - for those running such business, it can also be a very profitable one.

Although tour guides are a relatively small industry in islands as compared to capital Male, the field of work could potentially generate a fair income for the guides.

Water Sports

Already water sports play a huge role in guest attractions for any local tourist economy, however, the need for the industry to expand is ever present.

The current administration aims to bring 2.5 million tourists to the country annually before President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's tenure ends. PHOTO: AHMED MAANIS / BRANDS OF MALDIVES

These service providers should diversify and specialize in various activities for the guests to experience while tailoring special packages and programmes for these tourists.

Maldivian Souveniers

While most islands do boast some sort of souvenir shop, the products are often produced by foreign workers, at a foreign nation. Despite having the name 'Maldives' painted across their surfaces and depicting local underwater scenery, these souvenirs tend to be imported from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and other Asian countries known for their craftsmanship.

Nevertheless, local artistry is not lacking, and these businesses could and should employ local crafters to showcase Maldivian traditions and culture using products like lacquerware, miniature 'dhoni' (traditional boat) building, mat weaving, hand-woven traditional clothes and so forth.

The peak tourism season in the Maldives is the duration of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, usually between November and April. Some resorts commonly reach full occupancy during this period as tourists spend Christmas and New Year vacations in the country. PHOTO: AHMED MAANIS / BRANDS OF MALDIVES

Some businesses based in Male' have already begun to do so, empowering locals while also flaunting a widely appreciated label of authenticity.

Laundry and Housekeeping

Laundry and housekeeping are two of the key, if somewhat underestimated, aspects of running a hotel. Since there are so few laundry facilities set up in local islands, more and more regions have demonstrated a growing need for the industry to expand, and cater to the ever booming guesthouse sector, not to mention dive centres, liveaboards, safaris and spas!

After all, the need to look clean and be clean is not unique to any one aspect of the hospitality business!

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