The Sustainable Tourism Forum (STF) which began yesterday, December 3, highlighted that there are still many issues to be solved with in the tourism sector. These issues that need to be addressed in sustainable tourism development were well understood by the participants of the forum.
Sustainable Development Specialist and Moderator of the Forum Aishath Azfa gave a special presentation on the rapid development of local tourism in Maldives and the positive and negative impacts it has on the environment and the economy.
She said that with the surge in local tourism, a large number of guest houses have been built and many job opportunities have been provided.
However, the number of women in the sector is still fewer in comparison to their male counterparts. Azfa said in her presentation, that in order to cut costs, most guest houses have only one person employed who manages the everything.
Noting that this is culture needs to be changed, Azfa said the tourism sector can be expanded by improving tourism services and providing equal opportunities.
She said that that while a person from Malé city produces on average 1.7 kg of garbage per day, an individual from an administrative island on average produces 0.6 kg of garbage a day. According to her findings, tourism sector is one of the highest producers of waste with a single tourist producing an average of 3.5kg of garbage per day.
Therefore, if the tourism sector is to be developed in a sustainable manner, a solution is required for waste management, Azfa said, highlighting the importance of safe waste management facilities and infrastructure being developed especially in islands where local tourism is practiced.
Azfa's presentation also highlighted the waste of water in the tourism sector. She said the tourism sector wastes enough water every year to fill a 762 Olympic swimming pools. Many islands have been dredged for tourism purposes with an increase in land reclamation projects, she said, while noting that sustainable tourism development can be achieved by addressing these issues and working on them at the policy level.
Azfa has over 15 years of experience in climate adaptation, sustainability and policy development and planning. She has been a member of the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and The Resilient Island Foundation.
Sustainable Tourism Specialist Aminath Shadhun participated as co-moderator of the Sustainable Tourism Forum.
She spoke about the development of tourism in Maldives, tourism policies and master plans formulated by various administrations. Shadhun highlighted the importance of having a framework on sustainable tourism and emphasising it at the policy level in further developing tourism and local tourism.
Shadhun, who is the Learning and Development Executive of Kaimoo Travels and Hotel Services Group, said the sustainable development of the tourism sector requires sustainable financial management and integration of other related sectors. With the sudden growth and expansion of guest house businesses, it is also important to recognise the negative impact of local tourism on the tradition and culture of local islands, she said.
Shadhun said that the Sustainable Tourism Forum will identify these issues and look at ways to develop tourism in a way that will benefit the public. The aim of the forum is to propose policies to develop the tourism sector under a sustainable approach, she said.
The IMTM Sustainable Tourism Development Forum is attended by stakeholders in the tourism sector, several officials from the Ministry of Tourism and college students. The aim of the forum is to identify practical ways to develop Maldives' tourism sector in a sustainable manner.