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Guesthouse industry suffers amid Maldives state of emergency

Kaafu atoll Maafushi is considered as a top guesthouse destination enjoyed by thousands of island-hopper tourists. | Photo: Avas

Current political unrest has started to have its direct affect on local guesthouse ventures with multiple booking cancellations dawning at the wake of Monday night's state of emergency declaration.

The news has been corroborated by the president of Guesthouse Association of Maldives (GAM), Mohamed Karam who clarified that several guesthouse bookings have been cancelled.

"There have been more than 50 cancellations from China bookings on my guesthouse alone, I have been receiving updates about several other guesthouses facing the same issue," Karam said, adding "the complaints have been mounting [of booking cancellations]."

Karam highlighted that a single booking cancellation for a guesthouse could amount to severe loss for such ventures due to the limited accommodation from venues.

"Guesthouses are operated under a minimum income and equity, loss on bookings means loss of sales and that could prove catastrophic to such ventures," Karam explained further.

Several bookings of Chinese travelers have been cancelled during the 24 hours elapsed, however the guesthouse market attracts a limited amount of travelers from the Asian giant.

"Cancellations from European travelers are considerably low, but Chinese travelers are cancelling their bookings on a significant level," GAM president added.

Tourism statistics indicate that local guesthouse ventures attract more European travelers than any other part of the world, especially from Russia and Italy. Interestingly out of the countries that had issued travel advisories towards Maldives, the aforementioned countries have not been included yet.

Meanwhile due to Monday night's state of emergency declaration, China had advised its people to be cautious or refrain from traveling to Maldives.

Similarly both United States and United Kingdom had issued travel advisories over the current Maldives state. India and Canada had followed suit in releasing their advisories to travelers either flying in or currently in Maldives.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom declared that Maldives will be under a state of emergency for the duration of 15 days, while the order came in light of 20 constitutional and several judicature rights getting suspended for the duration.

The island nation has plunged into fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

More than four days after the Supreme court ordered the immediate release of as many as nine political prisoners, government has thus far refused to comply.

The state of emergency was declared after president Yameen's last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed after the apex court rejected the government's 'legal and judicial' concerns over the order.

In the few hours since emergency state was declared police have made a series of high profile arrests including deposed ruling party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the chief judicial administrator.

The judicature Act articles suspended by the president further constricts the powers of the top court and suspends the immunities of judges

The arrests of the top court judges come after soldiers had stormed the Supreme Court building following the declaration of the state of emergency. According to unconfirmed reports, the military had handed the two top judges who were inside the court over to the police.

Shortly after, chief justice had managed to get a message through to former attorney general Husnu Suood pleading the people to protect the Supreme Court and its bench

In the few hours since emergency state was declared police have made a series of high profile arrests including deposed ruling party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the chief judicial administrator.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

The others named in the order included former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's brother in law Hamid Ismail

The court had also annulled its anti-defection ruling and ordered the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling. The Supreme Court said the anti-defection ruling was issued as a temporary solution to the constitutional dispute case filed by the state but insisted that the relevant authorities have failed to bring to effect an anti-defection law specified in the ruling.

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