Slow tourism seems to offer an alternative to both the hurried traveller and to the sun, sand and sea mass tourism initiated in the 1960s in the Mediterranean. However, it also requires acceptance of a slow pace, and greater personal interaction with the locals and their culture. Is this a sustainable solution for the future of Maldives tourism?

PUBLISHED June 10, 2020

Mohamed Ali
Chairman
Moodhu Holidays
We have seen a huge shift from the 'art of doing nothing' towards exploration and adventure. In the earlier days, our visitors chose to spend the entire holiday at the beach reading a book, or spending some quality time with their loved ones, without leaving the island even once. However, today a lot of travellers to the Maldives do enquire about the possibility of visiting nearby islands and many do not prefer to be on the same island for more than four to five days. The average stay has reduced from 14 days to less than 7 days in recent years. People do not want to be in one spot for too many days. The millennials have revolutionized our approach to what we offer. Yes, slow-paced, greater personal interaction with locals, and allowing our visitors to understanding our culture would be a sustainable solution for the changing needs of visitors to the Maldives, the Sunny Side of Life.
Exploring the concept based on slow tourism or hurried travels is not the best option for Maldives. Our environment and culture are also quite different from those based in the Mediterranean. Best for Maldives will be to continue the successful tourism that has been practiced here in the last 48 years.

If the concept upon which Resorts operate in Maldives is the same concept as skyscrapers operate at Washington DC or Tokyo, then it will be difficult for us to achieve success. We will be more successful if we sell our country’s unique culture, nature, and ambiance. We should focus on being a destination that targets to provide affordable tourism for youth, honeymooners, and for those seeking a getaway for special travel and silver or golden jubilee anniversaries which in most cases are high-end resorts. By doing so, we can target to bring each person at least four times in their life to Maldives and become a destination that is good for all classes of people.

As this is an island nation which stretches over 1,129km and consist of 99% sea, starting the concept of regional airports will result in convenience for the wealthy and affordable to the price-conscious travelers. That will make everyone happy and Maldives remain a peaceful country which is ideal and safe for tourists.
For many countries, the pressure on governments to reopen their borders, societies and economies is intense: many are desperate to get back to work and re-establish some normality in their lives.
The main pre-requisite for opening the border will be that the government should have a credible strategy in place for proper screening at the airports and how to deal with positive cases when they encounter one, because they surely will. Putting entire islands under quarantine for weeks and trapping guests there will not be a solution. There has to be a strategy which builds confidence amongst the guests that Maldives is a safe destination, and that if something does happen, they will be looked after well. Just opening a small airport, ad hoc, for the sake of a few billionaires is not the solution. The government should focus on finding a solution quickly for the entire industry. We cannot afford to turn tourism off for the next 12 months.

The biggest driver will be the willingness of the source countries to allow their citizens to travel and return without having to go into quarantine back home. Giving confidence to those countries that Maldives has the situation under control is key. A proper Government-to-Government dialogue with the key source market is a pre-requisite.

When tourism returns, people’s choice of destination will be driven by safety and hygiene, rather than who has the cheapest price. The industry must coordinate to avoid a race to the bottom and we should stagger the openings so that the full inventory doesn’t come to the market at the same time. For this to happen the government needs to find a solution for those resorts and their staff who would delay their reopening.
Of course, slow tourism promises a more authentic travel experience, a greater consumption of local products, preservation of heritage, use of clean energy, an ethical vision of tourism, and a deeper concern for the ecology and for the quality of life of locals and visitors alike. Despite the traditional backpacking routes in destinations such as South East Asia, Central America or Australia – we have had visitors enjoying slow tourism in Maldives. From travelling for a prolonged period of time at a slow pace, whilst absorbing a deep, authentic and cultural experience.