Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Maldives goes green and embraces mid-market

The first democratically elected government in the Maldives has pledged to clean up the country's record on sustainable tourism.

Government representatives were in London on Monday to brief tour operators and journalists on their plans. Among those speaking was President Mohamed Nasheed, head of the new government.

One of the President's initial pledges is to promote mid-market and culture tourism.

Under the country's previous regime tourists were flown in to resorts and not allowed to see the poverty of citizens on neighbouring islands. Tourism Minister Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad hopes that they can share over 2,000 years of history with visitors.

He told Times Online that in the past money from resorts and tourism didn't filter down to the inhabitants of the islands.

He wants to share the wealth and plans to increase mid-market tourism to help generate funds. Three-star resorts will be built on uninhabited islands in a "sustainable manner".

More than 100,000 Britons visit the country each year and they hope to increase that figure by at least 50 per cent.

There was a mid-market boom in the 1980s but that has since shrunk, he said, and even though most of the resorts offer "first class five star service", there is "room to diversify".

The President was asked about the lack of public transport across the county's seven provinces. He said that they have no interest in running transport having "inherited a huge financial debt and the challenge of developing health, education and infrastructure".

Mr Nasheed has appealed to private investors to improve public transport links in return for land and guest house concessions.

Until now, visitors have not been allowed to get married on the islands, which have an Islamic law system, for religious reasons. Mr Nasheed also hopes to change that.

The second major aim of the goverment is to make the country carbon-neutral within ten years through the use of solar and wind power. Mr Nasheed held up luxury resort Soneva Fushi as an example of how they can achieve their aim. The resort has pledged to be carbon neutral by next year and "carbon zero" by 2011.

Soneva Fushi uses local materials for building, grows its own fresh produce in its grounds, provides air conditioning though a system that delivers cold water from the depths of the oceans, recycles everything and puts 2 per cent of villa rental revenue back into carbon schemes.

Another environmentally friendly measure introduced by the government has been to ban shark fishing in the country's waters.

Source: timesonline.co.uk

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