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The Maldives is a paradise for anyone who loves the tropical weather and the life near the seas, and with it being a tourism-focused country, it’s no wonder that the Maldives have a lot of tourism milestones in its rich history. The early 1970s was the starting point of tourism in the Maldives. After the Italian travel enthusiast George Corbin visited the country in search of a pristine destination where he could bring Italians for a vacation, the Maldives was introduced to the world as a tropical paradise must-see.

The First Resorts

It was in 1972 that the first resort in the Maldives was established – the Kurumba island resort in Vihamanaafushi. It had a 280-bed capacity, though it started with 30 rooms in blocks of three, and was built with coral stone for walls, coconut lumber, and palm thatch for roofs. Each room had a shower and toilet that used brackish water, basic furniture, and access to the beach on the island. The Kurumba island resort’s development was made possible due to the efforts of Mohamed Umar Maniku, Hussain Afeef, and Ahmed Naseem,as well as the financial support of George Corbin.

The 1970s ended up as the year when 17 resorts were established in the country, and that accounted for 1300 beds for tourists. They were very simple in facilities and had modest services due to the fact that the Maldivians were not knowledgeable on tourism services, as well as the lack of resources and trained personnel.

The First Travel Agencies

Farukolhufushi was leased to Club Nature four years prior, however, and it became the first foreign company-managed resort in the country.

More resorts

The years 1979 to 1988 marked more and more resorts opening within a short period of time – 41, to be exact. Resorts also began increasing their capacity to accommodate more tourists at the same timeframe. Foreign companies also began investing in the resorts in the country, which would continue until 2006.

The Second Tourism Master Plan

A key part of the plan was to expand and develop tourism into more regions across the country and decentralize it from the capital, which was the central hub of tourism from the beginning. It also aimed to reduce expatriate labor and increase the participation of women in the tourism sector labor force. A seminar on the Management of Human Resources in the Tourism Industry attributes this to «security concerns and attitudes of parents who do not want their children to be employed at resorts, which are perceived as predominantly male working environment». International Resorts and Seaplanes International resort brands also began to appear in the Maldives.

A wider range of accommodations followed this – from spa resorts, there now were hotels, guest houses, yachts, and safari boats that operated in the country.

The Third Tourism Master Plan was launched on 2007 and covered the years 2007-2011. It aimed to take «tourism to the people within the broader framework of sustainable development in the economic, environmental, and social spectra». Islands in the Maldives were opened as well for tourism development. They were to be leased from the government on a fixed-term contract under a competitive bidding process.

In 2006, there were 35 islands that were designated for tourism development, plus the latest release of the sites included plots of land for city hotel development on inhabited islands. The Maldives Tourism Development Corporation was formed in this period to give locals a share in the tourism industry. In addition to this, safari vessels, hotels, and guest houses provide accommodations totalling to 235 tourist establishments with a bed capacity of 20,505. The tourism industry also provided 22,000 jobs and contributed 30% of the government’s revenue, 30% of the GDP and 70% of the foreign exchange rate.

The summer of 2007 marked 14 charter and 15 scheduled international airlines with operating flights to the country from Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The tourism industry in the Maldives continues to rise and create more milestones for the country. Every year, there are more events happening in the country that boost its status as a definite tourism spotlight, and the country continues to receive commendations and awards from various tourism bodies. In 2016, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation launched the Visit Maldives Year 2016 and reached the 1,000,000th Visitor Milestone for the campaign in October 2016. With the Maldives establishing itself as one of the top tourist destinations, it’s sure that more milestones will happen for the country and for its tourism industry.