Tourism sector will be restarted as a 'peoples' industry' - Minister

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed has stated that the government wishes to increase the number of Maldivians employed in the tourism sector when restarting the country's tourism industry after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

Speaking at a press conference held at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) on Monday, MInister said the Maldivian tourism industry will be restored to its previous lucrative status with the assistance and cooperation of the Maldivian people.

The minister said the government is working to establish Maldivian nationals at the top tiers of the managements of local resorts according to the Tourism Master Plan. However, the government's efforts have been interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the whole industry is now at a standstill as a result of the pandemic, acknowledged the minister. While the industry must be restarted once again, he believes this is the best opportunity to implement the Tourism Master Plan, said the minister.

'Almost all resorts have suspended operation, and a large number of foreigners employed at local resorts have returned to their countries. Therefore, I believe this is the best time to involve more Maldivian nationals in the tourism sector, and increase their participation. We will discuss this matter with top officials of the industry, and we will lobby and push for this change,' Ali Waheed said.

The tourism minister added that a plan of action to restart tourism in the Maldives once the pandemic is under control has been developed by the ministry and shared with the President's Office. The plan was developed based on the experience of foreign nations and the advice of experts, and will be discussed further with heads of the tourism sector, said Minister Waheed. The government hopes to restart the country's tourism industry in July, he added.

'In this regard, we believe we can open up tourism once against during July. In a moderate scenario, this could be pushed back until October,' said the minister.

Minister Ali Waheed further announced that a mobile application especially designed for the tourism sector will be launched when the tourism sector opens up once again. Temporary and permanent job opportunities at local resorts can be viewed from a single platform using the application, he added.

'This app will become a game-changer. Artists such as musicians and photographers can view opportunities available for them from local resorts. This app will open up new opportunities for Maldivians,' said the minister.

The economy of the tourism-dependent archipelago has been hit hard as a result of global travel restrictions due to COVID-19. Minister Waheed said the popular tourist destination will be opened once again not for the wealthy but for the benefit of the country's citizens.