Malé, Maldives - In a recent press release, the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has vehemently denied allegations of misinformation made by the Minister of Tourism, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, concerning their November newsletter. MATATO has offered to educate the Minister on the integrity of its data collection and analysis methods.
MATATO emphasized its long-standing positive relationship with government authorities and stakeholders, highlighting its open channels for dialogue. The association underscored its commitment to transparency and accuracy, refuting any suggestion of data manipulation or misleading practices in its publications.
The organization's Dashboard, which aggregates tourism data, derives its figures from reputable international and local entities. These include the UNWTO, PATA, Ministry of Tourism, MIRA, and MMA. MATATO stressed the reliability and integrity of its data sources, standing firmly against accusations of data misrepresentation.
One of the key insights shared by MATATO was the occupancy trend in the Maldives. Only 51% of available beds were occupied this year, based on the total operational capacity of 62,822 beds as of November 1, 2023. This information, sourced from the Ministry of Tourism's "Weekly Updates on Maldives Tourism" dated November 2, 2023, also pointed to a decrease in the average length of tourists' stays. MATATO attributed this to a rise in Chinese tourist arrivals, who typically have shorter stays.
The association also highlighted a significant decline in tourist revenue over the first eight months of 2023. MMA data indicated a $160 million (MVR 2.5 billion) decrease compared to the previous year, marking a five percent downturn. This was corroborated by MMA's Monthly Statistics for October 2023.
MATATO expressed concerns over the Minister of Tourism's apparent disconnect from industry dynamics and challenges. The association pointed to the recent WTM London fair, where low occupancy rates and the need for significant property discounts, even during the festive season, were discussed. They also raised concerns about flight cancellations and ineffective policies, such as the implementation of home stays and integrated tourism development projects.
Further issues noted by MATATO included challenges faced by local travel agents, such as the presence of illegal foreign travel agencies in the Maldives and issues related to bank payments. The association believes these challenges are compounded by global factors like increased airfares, inflation, conflicts, and societal upheavals. The Maldives also faces competition from global destinations actively marketing themselves.