The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) expresses deep concern over the recent statements made by the Minister of Tourism, Dr Abdulla Mausoom, regarding the association’s November edition monthly newsletter. MATATO categorically denies the accusations of misinformation, seeks to clarify the integrity of its data and offers to educate the Minister on said matter.
In response to the Minister’s claims, MATATO emphasises its longstanding positive relationship with relevant authorities and stakeholders, maintaining open channels for dialogue with Ministers. The association asserts its willingness to provide clarification and educate the Ministry on its data publication methods.
MATATO’s Dashboard, which aggregates data, relies on figures from reputable international and local entities, including UNWTO, PATA, Ministry of Tourism, MIRA, and MMA. The association underscores its commitment to transparency and accuracy, refuting any suggestion of data manipulation or misleading practices.
The association draws attention to occupancy trends, highlighting that only 51% of available beds in the Maldives were occupied in the current year. This information is based on the total operational capacity of 62,822 beds as of November 1, 2023, sourced from the Ministry of Tourism’s “Weekly Updates on Maldives Tourism” of 2nd November 2023. MATATO also notes a reduction in tourists’ average length of stay, attributing this to an increase in Chinese tourist arrivals, known for shorter stays. All figures are diligently derived from Ministry Weekly Updates, and comparisons are confined to 2022 and 2023.
Furthermore, MATATO points to a significant decline in tourist revenue over the first eight months of 2023, supported by MMA data indicating a $160 million (MVR 2.5 billion) decrease compared to the previous year, constituting a five percent downturn. MMA Monthly Statistics corroborates this information for October 2023. Key performance indicators, encompassing tourist stay durations and occupancy rates, reveal declines from the previous year, per MMA’s Monthly Statistics. MATATO contends that any dispute with these figures should prompt consultation with the Ministry’s own published data or relevant MMA departments rather than disseminating inaccurate claims in the media.
MATATO believes the Minister of Tourism may be out of touch with industry dynamics or lack awareness of the challenges. The recent WTM London fair and prevailing industry sentiments emphasise low occupancy rates, leading properties to offer significant discounts, even during the festive season. The decline in Chinese arrivals is evident, with numerous flight cancellations. MATATO is also concerned about ineffective policies, such as implementing homestays and integrated tourism development projects. Specifically for local travel agents, there are issues such as the failure to enforce a travel agents law, the presence of foreign travel agencies operating illegally in the Maldives, and challenges related to bank payments for local agents, among others.
Global destinations vigorously market themselves in a broader context, while increased airfares and inflation, conflicts, wars, and societal upheavals pose additional challenges. The Maldives, amidst these difficulties, raised TGST last year, amplifying its costliness.
MATATO concludes by referencing the WTM Global Travel Report, emphasising the importance of understanding changing traveller needs and emerging trends for 2024 and beyond. In navigating the current challenges, such publications serve as vital tools for the Maldives.