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OF TOURISM, MALDIVES
This section will feature chapters
from the book 'Tourism in the Maldives-
25 years of sustainable development'
written by Ahmed NIYAZ and published
by the Ministry of Tourism, Maldives
in 1998. If you like to send comments
or queries please e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
travel enthusiast - his new discovery
in the Natural Paradise - the first
Sport - spear fishing
first tourist agencies
Humble Beginning- a resort at Vihamanaafushi
Island- the second exploration
travel enthusiast - his new discovery |Back to top|
The Italian travel enthusiast George
Corbin is a keen traveller who visited South Asian countries to
discover new opportunities. He explored India, Sri Lanka and also
Minicoy (or Maliku) which was regarded in the pastas an island of
the Maldives. He came across the tiny islands of the Maldives when
he was searching a map for the 'virgin islands'. While he was searching
for new destinations and information about untouched tropical places
in Colombo, he met Mr Kerefa Ahmed Naseem at the Maldivian High
Cobin and his family
The flamboyant outspoken Naseem impressed
Mr Corbin and provided valuable information about the Maldives.
The outcome was a trip by Mr Corbin to the Maldives during October
1971 in the 'Maldives Exporter', a cargo ship. Mr Naseem also accompanied
him on this trip and they talked in detail about the possibility
of bringing tourists to the Maldives. An Italian travel photographer,
Frenchesco Benini, also accompanied Mr Corbin.
The adventurous tour organizer realized
the potential of the Maldives as a tourist heaven on his arrival
and decided that he had found the perfect holiday destination. Mr
Corbin described his first impression of the Maldives as "breathtaking".
In Male' he met the young entrepreneur Mr Mohamed Umar Mainku and
they were both keen to explore the new venture. Mr Corbin travelled
to nearby islands in a boat owned by Kolige, the home of Mr Maniku.
These islands include Vihamanafushi (now Kurumba), Farukolhufushi
(now Fullmoon) and many more nearby. The Maldivian guide who accompanied
him on most trips was Mr Champa Hussain Afeef. Mr Corbin and Mr
Benini photographed the picture perfect islands and spent a wonderful
time writing texts about the Maldives.
As soon as they returned from the
Maldives, Mr Corbin published articles on his new found adventure
destination. They also wrote a book called Duemila isole felici
which was published in 1973.
in the Natural Paradise - the first tour group|Back to top|
The Italian tour organizer foresaw
the fantasy that awaits in these small tropical islands. He did
not waste time but started preparing the itinerary for the first
tourist group to set foot on the Maldivian white sand. "I could
feel the potential that these beautiful islands could offer the
tourists." said Mr Corbin. Then he realized that there was hardly
any place to stay and there was no way to fly to the isolated tropical
islands. With his organizational flair, experience, his Maldivian
friends and partners, he was able to solve these obstacles. Mr Corbin
wrote "No difficulties at all because my local partner was in charge
for all the local primary stage" . He was referring to Mr Naseem
and his companions.
- The first tourist group in Male'
On Wednesday, 16 February 1972, the
first tourist group arrived on Hulhule Island. They came on a charter
flight of Air Ceylon and landed at the tiny airstrip on the Hulhule
island. Mr Hussain Afeef met them at the airport and took them to
Male'. Among the 22 Italian tourists were writers and photographers,
who were fascinated by the natural beauty of the islands. Mr Ahmed
Naseem and Mr M U Maniku made all the necessary accommodation and
dining arrangements for their stay in the capital Male'. On the
very first day they had lunch in the 'Queen of the Night', a famous
local restaurant which served Maldivian food. "We gave an order
to 'Queen of the Night', asking them to prepare the best menu" said
Mr Afeef. The menu included biriyani, curry, rice and many other
side dishes. But it was not the best menu for Europeans who rarely
eat spicy foods. None of the guests enjoyed the meal because it
was too spicy for them. So the escorts decided to cook themselves.
"It was quite exciting." said Mr Maniku, recalling his first experience
with tourists. "We didn't know what to cook for them, or how to
deal with them". They did what they thought to be best for their
new friends and guests. Accommodation was arranged in three different
houses, Maagiri, Kaneeru Villa and Lux Wood. During the 12 days
they spent in the Maldives they made daily visits to local and uninhabited
islands. They also snorkelled around Male''s house reef, hunting
fish. Mr Ahmed Naseem, Mr M U Maniku and Mr Hussain Afeef accompanied
them. The tourists also spent time snorkelling, photographing underwater
and spear fishing, which was said to be the main sport at that time.
Mr Corbin said that their expectations were exactly what they had
seen on slides.
After being spoilt by the sun, sea
and sand for 12 days they flew back to Italy leaving with happy
memories. They were very enthusiastic and repeated their visits
to the Maldives. However, they expressed their feelings about the
virgin destination in newspapers through photographs and news articles.
It opened a door for others to experience the untouched islands.
After the return of the first organized tour group, Mr Corbin and
his agency 'Agenzia Viaggi Sesto Continente' were busy sending tourists
Sport - spear fishing |Back to top|
The reefs and surrounding lagoons
of the islands of the Maldives are rich in sea life. It is a habitat
for large and small multicoloured fish. The Italian tourists who
visited in 1972 brought equipment to catch fish. Most liked spear
fishing and they brought guns and other snorkelling equipment with
Kurumba - after a spear fishing trip
According to Mr M U Maniku, the first
group who visited Kurumba Village snorkelled to hunt fish. They
caught sharks, eels, snappers, groupers and many more. These fish
ended up on barbecue tables and they enjoyed eating their own catch.
The first tourist brochure published by Mr Corbin advertised the
Maldives as an ideal place for spear fishing.
However, this sport did not prove
to be very popular with environmentalists and nature lovers. The
first German group who visited Kurumba Village disliked the sport
and they objected to spear fishing. As a result the management of
Kurumba Village decided to ban the sport in Kurumba. Later the government
realized the threat to sea life if this sport were allowed to continue
and banned spear fishing in Maldivian waters.
|Back to top|
first tourist agencies |Back to top|
Muman Agency was the first tourist
agency to open in the Maldives and was involved in the construction
of the first tourist resort, Kurumba Village on Vihamanaafushi.
The shareholders of this agency were Mr Mohamed Umar Maniku and
Mr Ahmed Naseem. Construction of a resort on Male' atoll Kuda Huraa
was also undertaken by this agency and came into service in 1977
with a bed capacity of 32.
U Manik -one of the partners of MUMAN agency
In 1972 another agency was born named
Crescent Tourist Agency. It was established as a private company
and shareholders were Mr Ibrahim Nasir (the former president), Mr
Ali Umaru Manik, Mr Ahmed Adam and Mr Kandi Ahmed Ismail Maniku.
The construction of Bandos Island
as a tourist resort was undertaken by this agency in 1972. In the
following year they began to develop resorts on Furanafushi (now
Full Moon), Farukolhufushi, (now Club Med), Vilingili (now an inhabited
island), and Baros Island. Velassaru (now Laguna Beach Resort) was
developed with 90 beds and opened in 1974. During the same period
Crescent Tourist Agency leased Farukolhufushi to Club Nature and
was the first foreign company to manage a resort in the Maldives
Nasir - a shareholder of Cresent Tourist Agnecy
The CTA, which developed 6 resorts,
leased all the islands to different parties before it was dissolved
Humble Beginning- a resort at Vihamanaafushi |Back to top|
Mr Corbin and his companions visited
the Male' atoll Meerufenfushi, to see whether it was suitable to
be developed as a resort. But for them it was too far from the capital
and the Airport. According to Mr Hussain Afeef the initial survey
trip took more than five hours to arrive at Meerufenfushi. Therefore,
Mr Corbin decided it would not be viable and wise to start construction
there. Vihamanaafushi, being closer to the airport and the capital
Male', was the ideal choice for the young entrepreneurs. It had
a splendid beach and a close house reef which was ideal for snorkelling.
The construction of tourist resorts
began with a single resort construction on an inhabited island.
In 1972 the Italian travel enthusiast, George Corbin,with his pioneering
Maldivian companions, M U Manik and Ahmed Naseem, started the project
in Male' atoll Vihamanaasfushi, 3 km away from the airport. They
invested money, effort, time and their energy, uncertain whether
this would turn out to be the first gem in a multimillion-dollar
Their concept was simple and back
to nature. The rooms were constructed using coral stones, which
were erected from the surrounding reefs. This material, has commonly
been used to build houses. The roof was covered with thatch and
coconut timber was used as beams and columns. En-suite facilities
were provided for these rooms. Each room faced the beach, a popular
concept among tourists even today. Ceiling fans were used to cool
the rooms. Electricity was provided by using two generators and
meals were served in the small restaurant, which was sufficient
for 60 guests. Local staff without formal training were employed
throughout the resort.
According to the Maldivian entrepreneurs,
construction was nevertheless a laborious task with the limited
facilities available at that time. National infrastructure was at
its lowest level and the country was just recovering from the impacts
of the second World War. "I was cook, gardener and room boy.
We had to do everything ourselves," explained Mr Maniku who
played a major role to establish Kurumba Village. "We had nothing
in the Maldives then, nothing. No Banks, no airport, no telephones
only ham radio or Morse code with Colombo. Even the UNDP experts
said that tourism would never succeed because there were no facilities,
The workmanship was solely based on
the talents of fellow Maldivians with the innovation and expertise
of George Corbin. A sailing boat was used to transport the construction
materials from Male' to the island of Vihamanaafushi. The 30 room
Kurumba Village was opened on 3rd October 1972 as the first ever
Maldivian resort of the fledgling industry.
Since the forerunner in the idea of
tourism was an Italian, the first group who visited to this resort
was also a group of Italian tourists. In the same year different
nationalities, such as Swedish and German, also visited Kurumba
Village. Tourists were transferred in 'Cola Boat' from the airport
to Kurumba Village.
The island had been upgraded in different phases after its opening,
the major renovation being done during the 80s. Present bed capacity
of the island is 340 which includes presidential suites and two-storey
villa accommodation. Kurumba Village today boasts five-star luxury
amenities with highly qualified managers to run the day-to-day activities
of the resort. It has hosted many international meetings and conferences
in its proud living history.
Island- the second exploration |Back to top|
Male' atoll Bodu Bandos was the next
island developed as the second resort of the Maldives. The enterprising
former president, Mr Ibrahim Nasir, initiated the resort development
project. The Crescent Tourist Agency in which Mr Nasir had a stake
implemented the project. Guestrooms built in Bandos Island were
of good standard with en-suite facilities.
The first phase of the construction
involved the building of 32 rooms with two blocks of 10 rooms and
six separate blocks of two rooms. The design conceptof two blocks
of 10 rooms was not a favourite concept as these rooms were facing
inland instead of towards the beach. However, the construction team
soon realized the advantage of having beach front rooms in a leisure
beach resort and increased the room numbers to 110, the rest being
beach front bungalows. Local sand and corals were used as a major
component in the construction.
With 220 beds, Bandos Island Resort
was opened on 10th December 1972. The resort had a restaurant, dive
school and other facilities. On opening, it employed about 60 local
people. Since tourism was a new experience to locals, there was
hardly anyone who was experienced or trained in the management field.
To overcome this problem and enhance smooth running of the resort,
two Maldivian women were sent to Colombo, Sri Lanka to obtain training
in the hotel and catering field.
Today, Bandos Island Resort is one
of the best resorts of the Maldives, providing a good standard of
services to its clients and staff. It is also famous as a resort
that provides tourists with modern services including entertainment,
accommodation, and business services. Bandos Island Resort has a
modern conference hall which can cater for international conferences
and regional meetings. Bandos was also the first resort to provide
an in-house decompression facility for diving accidents with its
hi-tech 'Decompression Chamber'.