Tourism Minister: Most fees in Safe Tourism Guideline draft cancelled

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed has announced that most of the fees included in the Safe Tourism Guideline draft formed by the government have been repealed.

The Minister was speaking in the Parliament’s Economic Committee when he said that the draft was not a final one and that due to a change of circumstances, most of the fees included in the initial draft would not be charged.

The Minister stated that the document that was shared with the tourism industry stakeholders had been leaked to obscure the contents of the guideline.

Central Maafannu MP Ibrahim Rasheed, speaking in the committee meeting said that it would be burdensome on foreign airlines to pay extravagant fees to operate to the Maldives when they were also faced with bankruptcy.

Addressing the concerns of the MP, Tourism Minister Ali Waheed stated that the guideline was just the first copy and included measures to be taken before the borders are officially reopened in July.

Now the Ministry was formulating the third draft of that guideline, said the Minister who added that no other fees than what was previously charged before the lockdown by the Maldives would be included in the guideline. 

“Our mindset is not to make the Maldives an expensive destination when the guideline is grounded out along with the industry. The fees of the pre-opening draft are not included in the draft we have presently. We will now debate with other economic institutions on a policy level regarding the issue,”

“The Ministry’s thought is to create it as a tourism paper that can be taken to the office, along with the ideas of MATI, Guesthouse Association, Boating Association, and other travel agents.” Said the Minister.

Private jets parked on the tarmac of Velana International Airport. The airport broke the record for air traffic movements on January 5, 2019 with 811 recorded movements. (Photo/MACL)

Speaking about the first draft, the Minister said that it was more shaped on allowing tourists into the country even if the situation with the virus was not fully controlled. However, since the virus situation has been fully controlled, some changes would be brought to the policy when it is finalized, said the Minister.

“The first draft was the policy for jets and others to arrive after June 1 (pre-opening), even before July…Back then it was for the possibility to allow people to arrive for quarantine on isolated islands, even if the virus was not controlled,”

“We have repealed it when we got to phase one’s third draft. We now refer to it as the Guideline for Restarting Maldives Tourism. This is because, god willing, we have managed to control the virus.” Said the Minister.

Maldives stopped issuing on-arrival visas late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial guideline formulated by the government involved opening the country for private jets and superyachts in June. Commercial flights were to be recommenced in July. 

Under the policy tourists were also to be accommodated on specific safe resorts that the Ministry would be licensing. The resorts are to meet certain requirements in order to be permitted for the license. A fee of USD 50,000 was also required for the license in the initial draft. 

Under the draft policy, the Maldives will be open for superyachts and private jets. A landing fee of USD 50,000 will have to be paid by any private jets while an entry fee of USD 10,000 will be required from any superyachts.

Tourists were also required to pay a fee of USD 100 per person for visa purposes. The fee was in addition to a USD 100 to be paid for a PCR test for the virus.

The Ministry had stated back then that the guideline was not a final one and had also requested any recommendations for the guideline to be made before May 25. The document was shared with tourism industry stakeholders and discussions are now underway.

The draft has drawn the ire of many in the industry. Parliament’s view on the guideline is also now being sought.