President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, representing the Maldivian Democratic party, is preparing to assume power, as the troublesome reign of president Abdulla Yameen comes to an end.
Solih will be sworn in as only the Maldives’ fourth president since it transitioned to democracy in 2008, following previous years of monarchical and authoritarian rule. Meanwhile, previously deposed president Mohamed Nasheed who had been living in exile, has been given a hero’s welcome back into the country.
“We are a young democracy and have never had a president take a second term in this time, so we are used to change,” explained Ahmed Shiaan, Maldivian ambassador to the UK. “Having said that, it’s never been as much of a doomsday scenario as some people make out.
“We are looking forward to a smooth transition and the incoming government is already ahead with projects it made promises about and is very focused on the development of the Maldives.”
“There will be a pause as the new government settles in, but we know they will be making tourism a priority,” added Haris Mohamed, acting managing director of Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation (MMPRC), the state-owned tourism body.
The Maldives is on target to hit 1.4 million tourists by the end of the year, with figures to the end of September already showing 1.1 million arrivals.
“Brand Maldives continues to be widely recognised,” said Shiaan. “But there are new source regions where we are now seeing great growth too.”
North American visitors to the country have risen by 20%, despite almost no promotion by the MMPRC.
“This is the fastest growing area for us and holds huge untapped potential,” Shiaan said.
India is also set to bring an influx of visitors, following the introduction of services such as GoAir’s flights from Mumbai and Delhi to Male.
Improved connectivity to Africa will also give the destination a boost, added Mohamed, with flights from Johannesburg launching on November 24 to Gan International in the southernmost atoll of Addu.
Shiaan hinted that four more airlines could also start flying to the Maldives next year, but he was unable to reveal further details.
It comes as a new international airport, designed to cater for more than 7.5 million passengers, reaches its final stages. Shiaan confirmed the runway would be ready for passenger flights “by the end of the year”, followed by the opening of a completely new passenger terminal building next year.