The Maldives is an independent republic located in the south western part of the Asian continent near the Indian Ocean. It is made up of scattered islands that cover an area of 298km over the Indian Ocean. It was formed by volcanic eruptions that occurred million of years ago that left behind coral reefs. The result of the subsiding volcanic cones resulted in the Maldives having 1190 low-lying coral islands and 26 coral atolls.
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The islands experience climatic conditions that are hot and humid with sea temperatures averaging between 26 to 31 degrees Celsius (Boniface and Cooper 2009). The Maldives economy is based on fishing and tourism which when combined account for about 30% of the Gross Domestic Product. These two industries are also the major source of earnings for foreign exchange and government revenue. The tourism industry in the Maldives accounts for approximately 20% of Gross Domestic Product (Hall and Page 2000).
The climatic conditions are known to be tropical in nature with the annual mean temperature estimated at 28 degrees Celsius. The island experiences two monsoon seasons between May and November with the rest of the year experiencing sunny conditions. Such weather is conducive to support the tourism sector.
The population was estimated to be around 263,189 with a growth rate of 2.9% in 1997. This population has been spread over the 200 islands with the most populous island being Male with an approximated population of 65,000 people. Male is viewed to be the centre of the Maldives business and economic activities (Hall and Page, 2000).
Honeymoon in the Maldives
The Maldives island attractions and perfect weather offer honeymooners a perfect gateway for their honeymoon vacation. 74 out of the 200 islands have been developed into tourist resorts with the remainder of the islands remaining uninhabited Couples who visit the various islands can be assured of having adventure, privacy and exclusivity because of the few visitors that are allowed per island; they can also be assured of never ending sunshine for the whole day that is good for sunbathing and surfing in the ocean.
The resorts have a wide variety of water activities that will keep the couple entertained and busy during the course of their honeymoon. There are also over water bungalows in some of the resorts such as the Hilton which provide the couples with a good view of the coral atolls and marine life below their bungalows (Maldives Ministry of Tourism, 1998).
Honeymooners going to the islands will have good holiday packages such as a bottle of champagne, fruit baskets and flowers sprinkled on the beds in their rooms. The resorts in the islands that offer romantic settings with secluded gardens and beaches are the Four Seasons, Banyan Tree, Soneva Gili, Taj Exotica and the Taj Exotica. The Hilton resort offers honeymooners with over water rooms and bungalows. The resorts offer romantic rooms with king size bedrooms that mostly have natural finishing’s with soft lighting and draped walls; the rooms also offer couples on honeymoon with outdoor bathrooms and spas. The less costly resorts such as the Baros, Reethi Beach Resort and the White Sands offer great rooms with exclusivity and privacy but they do not offer spa treatments or outdoor bathrooms.
The Republic of Seychelles is made up of 115 coralline and granite islands that cover an area of 455km. According to Seychelles Tourism Board (2010) “41 out of the 115 islands represent the oldest mid-oceanic granite islands in the whole world while the other 74 islands form a low lying reef and coralline atolls”.
The republic of Seychelles also has an exclusive economic zone of 1.4 million km in the western part of the Indian Ocean which also represents an archipelago that is south of the equator that extends from 4 to 10 degrees and that lies between 480km to 1,600km from the eastern coast of Africa (Seychelles Tourism Board 2010).
The 115 islands found in the Republic of Seychelles are categorized into two distinct groups. The first group which contains the tall granite inner islands clusters within the shallow part of the plateau, 4 degrees south of the equator while the second group made of the low lying reef and coralline islands are found lying 10 degrees south of the equator beyond the Seychelles plateau.
The outer islands are divided into five groups which are the Southern Coral Group, the Amirantes, Alphonse group, the Farquhar and the Aldabra Group. The Seychelles has climatic conditions that are tropically warm. Temperatures range between 24 to 32 degrees Celsius without any extremes with the months of March and October being the most humid. The rainy season occurs during January and February with the dry season being experienced in May and September (Seychelles Tourism Board 2010).
Honeymoon in Seychelles
The Seychelles islands offers couples who are on their honeymoon a perfect balance of land and water activities. The close proximity of the islands allows visitors to island hop allowing them to explore what the different islands have to offer. There are also ecotourism activities that allow island visitors to see exotic plant species and coral reefs in the island. There are exclusive private islands especially for those couples who need their privacy during their honeymoon (STB, 2010).
The islands of Seychelles are viewed to be the most authentic islands in the whole of the Indian Ocean because of their unspoiled beautiful beaches and the clear turquoise waters near the beaches. Such attractions are suitable for honeymooners who are on a romantic gateway. The northern part of the island of Mahe has beautiful scenic views for the honeymooners as well as scenic beaches and shores. The Anse Intendance and Takamaka offer couples a seclusion and privacy when lying on the beach.
A resort that offers couples perfect honeymoon packages is the Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove which is located at the top of the Beau Vallon Beach. The resort offers couples an experience of adventure in the form of attractive nature walks that allow the visitors to view exotic flora and fauna as well as marine life. Each of the seventy rooms in the resort contains a private balcony that allows the couples to view sunsets in a romantic setting (STB, 2010).
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The Cocoloba Lounge also offers beautiful scenic views for the couples most interested in nature and the Ocean. The Hotel Acajou is another resort that offers privacy and seclusion for couples on a honeymoon vacation. The hotel has only twenty eight rooms which makes it a good place for couples wishing to interact with fewer people.La Digue boasts of having beautiful unspoiled islands with one of the most beautiful and photographed beaches in the world, Anse Source D’Argent at its centre.
Other memorable beaches that offer a conducive environment for honeymooning are the Anse Banane, Fourmis and Anse Gaulettes in the eastern part of La Digue. One of the best places for a honeymoon gateway is Le Domaine de L’Orangeraie which boasts of having ten romantic bungalows designed in a zen-like setting. The rooms offer private terraces and private outdoors bathrooms for those couples that want to be one with nature (STB, 2010).
Extent to which the Maldives and Seychelles are Developed or Less Developed Tourism Destinations
Tourism is viewed by many developing countries that are poor in resources as an important economic stimulus. In the smaller less developed countries with a limited number of resources, the tourism industry has become the major source of economic revenue for these countries.
Both the Maldives and Seychelles fall into the category of less developed countries because their economies rely heavily on the tourism industry as well as the foreign exchange market for their economic development activities. The other industries in these island countries which are fishing and agriculture do not yield as much to place them in the category of developed tourism destinations (Sharpley and Telfer 2002).
With relation to the Maldives, Brown et al (1997) state that the less developed country is using dispersal techniques to overcome the adverse impacts of tourism. Such tactics have however not contributed in any way to sustaining and maintaining the Maldives’ tourism revenues.
The authors continue to note that the Maldives tourism industry was developed to suite the small island environment while at the same time ensuring there was no environmental degradation or negative socio-cultural impacts. This focus on small scale tourism ensured the island created a substantial amount of economic benefits for the islands inhabitants (STB 2010).
The tourism industry in Seychelles is focused mainly on natural attractions such as the white sandy beaches, the conducive weather and climate and the surrounding Indian Ocean. The island derives its economic resources from these natural aspects by centering its tourism activities on them.
There is therefore a big dependence on tourism in this less developed country when compared to the industrialized countries. The other industries in Seychelles which are agriculture and fishing do not earn as much for the island but these activities have provided a constant source of income for the inhabitants of the inner and outer islands who have been unable to gain any useful employment in the hotels, resorts or restaurants (Sharpley and Telfer 2002).
Evaluation of the significance of Domestic, Outbound and Inbound Tourism
Domestic tourism involves activities that are mostly focused on the resident visitor within the host country while inbound tourism deals with tourism activities of a non-resident visitor in the host country. Outbound tourism entails the activities of a resident visitor outside the host country. To determine the number of outbound, inbound and domestic tourists, the flow of visitors into the country will be used as the proper measurement.
Europe being the leading tourist market of the Seychelles saw an inbound number of tourists between 1979 and 1984 amounting to 62.6 percent of all tourists. The highest number of European holidaymakers came from France followed by Western Germany and Britain. The introduction of the Madrid-Mahe air route saw an increase in the number of Spanish tourists in 1995.
African visitors accounted for 25percent of all the inbound tourists. Australia and Singapore exhibited the least number of inbound tourists. The Seychelles has experienced fluctuations over the years in the number of tourists arriving into the island a situation that has gone hand in hand with marketing campaigns (Ghosh et al. 2003).
Outbound and domestic tourism in Seychelles has been low given the developing nature of the islands inhabitants. Most locals are unable to afford the high resort rates both locally and internationally. They mostly end up visiting the conservancy locations established by the government such as nature walks and botanical gardens.
The recent economic recession also made it difficult for locals to practice domestic or outbound tourism. This is the same situation for the domestic tourism industry in the Maldives as well as the outbound tourism sector. Inbound tourism in the Maldives saw most of the tourists coming from the European continent. 1997 statistics from the Ministry of Tourism showed that 74.7 percent of the visitors to Maldives were from Europe.
The Asian continent was second with a percentage of 20 percent of all tourist arrivals to the Maldivian islands. Africa and America (North and South) accounted for the least number of inbound tourists with the approximate percentages given being 2.2 for Africa and 1.7 for the Americas (Hall and Page 2000).
Government’s commitment to Tourism in Seychelles and the Mandives
Tourism in both destinations largely depends on the environment. The government of Seychelles has been seen to be very committed to tourism an activity which is evidenced by conservation efforts that will ensure the coralline atolls and reef islands do not face any environmental degradation.
At some point government approved activities that were seen to be harmful to the environment were abandoned in favor of preservation efforts that would see the coral and reef islands under protection areas. Other government efforts have seen the allocation of the limited areas in the islands to be national parks and conservation reserves (Gossling 2003).
During the first decade of tourism development activities in the Seychelles Island, development activities were mostly based on private sector initiatives in the islands that offered more accessibility to international visitors.
The government initiative to construct the international airport in Mahe ensured that the island was able to achieve an increase in the number visitors to the airport and hotels. Also, the introduction of Air Seychelles through an aggressive marketing campaign ensured that the dominance of European airlines was diminished (Ghosh et al. 2003).
Policies and planning for the tourism industry in the Maldives was also based on private sector initiatives such as the Hulhule Airport. This informal development was able to generate 3,500 bed spaces in the resorts that were of an international standard. The development also saw the bed occupancy grow to 80 percent during the peak tourism seasons.
The future development of the Maldives tourism industry came with the commissioning of Dangroup International by the Department of Tourism and Foreign Investment to implement the Maldives Tourism Development Plan. The plan was a long range plan of ten years that would be used to develop the tourism industry (Sawkar et al. 1998).
The ten year plan would see the creation of 10,000 additional beds with 3,000 of these beds being in use within the second year of development. The plan also involved harmonizing tourism in the island with the other economic activities while at the same time ensuring the benefits of the geographic spread of tourism have been achieved.
To date however, most of the tourism development policies and planning activities have been as a result of government activities. According to Sawkar et al (1998) most of the approaches used by the government have been changed to determine which tourism developments are most suitable for the present environments.
The tourism activities in the Maldives have been designed by the government in a way that will ensure the marine environment within the island is not threatened.
To ensure marine ecosystems and the coral reef are kept safe, the government in Maldives has created marine reserves and implemented codes of conduct for tourism activities that will see tourists to the island observing the conservation activities of marine life and the coral reef (Boniface and Cooper 2009).
Most of the Maldivian islands are too small to accommodate both the resorts and traditional homesteads. The government policy has seen the location of resorts in uninhabited islands to reduce socio-cultural impacts on the local residences (Sakwar et al. 1998).
Economic, Socio-cultural and Environmental Impacts of Tourism
The main focus of tourism development in the Maldives has been on enclave tourism meaning that each of the 74 resorts in the islands are an autonomous unit that caters for their own power supply, water and sewerage services as well as garbage disposal. The resorts which vary in size from 6 to 150 rooms are established on separate islands and they are fully self-contained.
The only people who live on the islands are the staff and guests only which has ensured that the negative impacts of tourism such as the degradation of the coral reef is minimized.
The small population in the islands also ensures that the local cultures, traditions and lifestyles can be sustained without any foreign influences or pressure from the westernized world. To ensure there are no negative environmental impacts of tourism, a careful balance has been used in the geographical and population density when allocating the islands for tourism development (Hall and Page 2000).
To limit the amount of environmental degradation in the islands, the government in the Maldives decided to establish the National Council for Environment Protection in 1984. The government also took part in activities that would help sustain the natural integrity of the islands environment by introducing rules and regulations that would be used by people developing resorts and hotels in the islands to ensure they exercise conservation activities.
The government also formulated guidelines that would highlight the carrying capacity of these resorts so as to limit the number of tourists or guests below the defined environmental thresholds. They set the standard guideline that would see only 68% of the beach length being utilized for guest bedrooms, 20% being allocated for public use while 12% being left as an open space (Hall and Page 2000).
The republic has committed itself to conservation activities that are meant to preserve the reefs and the coral islands. These activities have seen half of the surfaces on the islands under conservation and protected areas. Despite these efforts there has been some degradation of the environment in some of the islands.
There are several legally implemented marine parks which have remained unmanaged because of the lack of financial funding and qualified staff. Few hotels in the islands have taken steps to cut down on the natural resources such as fresh water and have incorporated environmentally friendly waste and sewerage disposal treatment facilities (Gossling 2003).
The amount of water used in the tourism sector of Mahe was 10 percent while tourism in Praslin used 30 percent of the natural freshwater. La Digue had a tourism water usage that amounted to 25 percent of the islands water resources. The government has found itself faced with the task of solving the diminishing water resources by constructing energy-intensive desalination plants on all the three islands. These plants are meant to increase the greenhouse emission gases (Gossling 2003).
There has been a notable increase in the noise and sound levels in the three islands which has been attributed to the continued increase of visitors over the years. Food consumption such as marine wildlife has also increased which creates a situation for the extinction of fish or crab species.
Souvenirs have also been produced from this marine wildlife such as shark jaws, corals and shells from sea turtles. The government has enacted legislations to ensure that hunting of these species is prohibited. This will be in line with conservation efforts put in place.
Tourism has impacted the economy of Seychelles with an estimated amount of 21 percent of revenues from this industry going into the GDP. The industry has also catered for the economic development of the tourism destination providing employment and revenues. There has also been an increase in the foreign exchange activities which can be attributed by the international market that recognizes Seychelles as a major tourist destination.
The increased number of visitors has also seen the construction of new hotels and resorts which will be able to accommodate more tourists (Sharpley and Telfer 2002). The number of island inhabitants who were employed in the hotels in 1994 was 4,726 which accounted for 18 percent of the total formal employment in the three main islands. This figure continued to increase over the years as the number of visitors continued to grow.
The high numbers of visitors also meant that expansion activities had to take place to accommodate these large numbers which in turn saw more local people gaining employment in the hotels.
This impacted on the socio cultural environment within the island in terms of improving the living standards of the islands inhabitants and their families. Sharpley and Tefler (2002) noted that there was a notable improvement in the healthcare facilities of the island that saw a decline in mortality rates and better social amenities such as improved water supply and sewerage disposal facilities.
Challenges and Future Prospects
There is still room for diversification and improvement in the Maldives. Notable progress has been made especially with the resorts now having a wider range of sporting and recreational activities. Excursions have also been organized for tourists to visit the other islands in the Maldives.
There has also been a notable increase in the number of cruise ships that have visited the islands. According to the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, the number of floating beds had increased dramatically from 1993 up to 1998. More however needs to be done to develop the cultural and historical aspects of the island (Maldives Ministry of Tourism 1998).
There are a number of projects that are in place to develop both the public and private sectors of the island. Fourteen islands have been identified for development with 61 resorts being renovated and upgraded. In the public sector, a waste management project is being designed and developed. There is also a program for Tourism and Human Resource development which is a joint collaboration between the European Union and seven Asian countries (Maldives Ministry of Tourism 1998).
While the islands have experienced a rapid growth in the number of tourists in the past, more needs to be done to continue to increase this number. More investments will need to be pumped into the resorts to increase the bed capacity. The government should also develop policies that will be able to attract foreign and donor investment. This will ensure resort developments in the island have enough financial funding to increase bed capacity as well as higher skilled labor to develop the resorts (Hall and Page, 2000).
While the tourism industry in Seychelles is experiencing an upward growth trend, the government has identified areas that need additional funding such as environmental conservation efforts and the establishment of new structures in the various islands. The government has developed structures such as hotels benefiting from accelerated depreciation allowances to enable them stay in business.
Other strategies are profits made by hotels being taxed by 35 percent to ensure there is equitable revenue collection which will fund the government’s activities adequately. Foreign investors wishing to invest in Seychelles can be able to access soft loans from the Seychelles Development Bank with the amount of capital transferred abroad being done at the normal interest and exchange rates (Ghosh et al. 2003).
Seychelles experiences a shortage of foreign exchange which has proved to be serious challenge for most of the operational enterprises in the three islands. Because the tourism industry accounts for close to 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings, the government has decided to focus on investments in the five and six star hotels by offering donors investment incentives.
These hotels however require imported raw materials, machinery and equipment for them to meet the five or six star hotel rating. Importing these tools will require the use of foreign exchange in the amount of 80 to 90 percent of the government revenue. While the impact of tourism impacts the domestic economy directly in a small way, income and tax are basically supported by the foreign exchange that is derived from the industry (Ghosh et al. 2003).
To deal with such a challenge, the government is challenged to remove exchange controls that will eliminate barriers that hinder investment and financial support from the international community. With a competitive exchange rate and the ability to access imports through foreign exchange, Seychelles can be able to attract financial support while ate the same time exercising diversification in its tourist activities.
The recent recession saw the delay of some projects in the islands because of problems with external debt payments which impacted on project financing. This situation underscored the importance of moving ahead with the restructuring agreement of negotiated debts. However, most of the projects that involved construction of hotels by tourism groups and large airlines were moving ahead because of the financial support from these groups of investors.
The tourism sector has also placed a constraint on the energy, water and sanitation resources of the three islands. The government of Seychelles to deal with such challenges has put pressure on investors of big hotels to take care of their own sanitation needs. This has seen hotel projects in the Outer Islands having additional funding for infrastructure from investors to support the energy, water and sewerage operations of the hotel as well as contribute to the Seychelles Environmental Preservation Fund (Ghosh et al. 2003).
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