Maafushi: astonishing local tourism model

Various tourism models are tried and tested across the globe. Every year thousands of tourists and tour destinations are classified into various categories. Maldives, had been categorically labelled as a luxury tour destination, retreat of the rich and famous. But if one was to venture out of that territory, disembark on the shores of Maafushi island, this long held belief is shattered.

Maafushi is bursting with guesthouses: there are more guesthouses than homes. The local tourism concept has taken a different shade in Maafushi. The guesthouses in the island are multi-storied, invested by popular businesses. It is a completely different concept to that of the traditional local tourism. Nevertheless, the guesthouses are in high demand.

How is Maafushi any different?

The start of local tourism is basic – the tourist lodged in the home, while the families give a glimpse of their (relatively) unchanged daily life. In Maafushi, the standards and the model are elevated to an unlikely standard.

The guesthouses in Maafushi are modern, designed on contemporary lines, starkly contrasting the traditional atoll and island life. The prices are hovering above the prices of average guesthouse model. Even though the guesthouses had departed the traditional model, the number of tourists visiting the island had not decreased.

In our trip to Maafushi, Avas posed this query to Farhan Abdullah, the Manager of Silver Sands, one of the most modern guesthouses in the island. Farhan says the tourists get the island community feel, even though the guesthouses were on a different concept. He adds the difference in concept had attracted a unique customer base. He said the majority of the visitors were from Russia, Singapore and Malaysia, who incidentally are not low budget tourists.
“The market is evolving constantly; the type of tourists also changes. Introducing more guesthouses like this will not hamper the arrival of tourists. Our occupancy had not changed. Our customer base is more semi-luxury and mid-market tourists, than luxury. Their needs, tastes are catered from this model,” he said.

Traditionally, islands based on local tourism functioned by converting homes to cater to tourists. The business is carried out by the citizens of that island. However, in Maafushi, established businesses in Male’ had invested in the island, spelling a quantum leap in the sector.

What are the threats to the business?

Maafushi is a dollar dump. That’s how many defines the island. The bank branch in the island counts more dollars than Maldivian Rufiyaa.

The normal trend is when a new form of a model is introduced, there is a gap, an adjustment gap. This gap makes or breaks the model. In Maafushi, this gap is non-existent. The evolving tourism concept had not failed; the number of tourists to the island has not decreased.

A travel agent, bringing in tourists from Malaysia and Singapore region, said the success of the Maafushi model, was the island was cleanly pegged as a local tourism hub. The island offers the best of any tourist experience; a holistic experience giving a keen insight into the island life, while giving the mid-level resort experience.

This, he said, was the reason behind the island’s success. The island is a model by itself; any research carried into the island will undoubtedly release more insights to the sector.