Eco-tourism, an exciting new venture for remote islands
The Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, attracts over 900,000 tourists annually from all over the world. However, tourism activities are confined to ‘resort’ islands, and the participation of Maldivian communities in tourism activities – the economic backbone of the country – is limited.
For many in the community of Gaafu Dhaal Vaadhoo Island, eco-tourism was a concept unheard of. People were not sure whether the 400 year old banyan tree in the island’s dense woods, their ancient cemetery, or quaint mosque with intricate religious carvings and a deep well used to draw drinking water - could generate the interest of foreign visitors, and much less be a source of income for the island community.
- In many Maldivian communities, eco-tourism is an unheard of concept
- Partnership 4 Development (p4d) Forums presented the opportunity to explore prospects for eco-tourism
- The forums helped promote partnerships and economic linkages between local communities and the tourism sector
However, the Partnership 4 Development (p4d) Forums, an initiative of the Government of the Maldives, supported by UNDP, changed that perception.
“During the assessment prior to the Forum, a team found several historical and cultural sites on the island, and the youth community and Island Council saw the opportunity to develop Vaadhoo as an eco-tourism destination,” says Vishah Saeed, a member of the youth group ‘South Vaadhoo Association’, who was a part of the team from the island who presented the prospects for eco-tourism at the South p4d Forum.
Prior to the p4d Forum in the South, communication between resorts and islands in the region were limited and no formal business arrangements had been made between the two, despite possibilities of mutual benefit. The Forum - organised under the UNDP supported Employment and Enterprise Development for Women and Youth project, implemented by the Ministry of Economic Development, in collaboration with Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports - supported the government’s goal of sustainable tourism, and aimed to promote partnerships and economic linkages between local communities and the tourism sector.
Following the dialogue initiated at the Forum, high-end resorts such as Park Hyatt Maldives and Ayada Maldives expressed interest in arranging excursion trips to Vaadhoo Island for their guests, which will include visits to nine historical and cultural sites, as well as viewing unique flora, fauna and natural sites of the island.
Building on these opportunities, NGO’s and cooperatives from the island are engaging in discussions with the Island Council to develop proper facilities to drive the eco-tourism concept further.
“We are keen to find resources to develop restaurants, souvenir shops, rest areas, and implement proper waste management techniques to make this concept work well in the island. We are encouraged by the idea that a police station and harbour will be built soon in the island, and it will contribute to easier access and reducing security risks. We are also looking at providing interested individuals with trainings on becoming tour guides to facilitate these excursions for the visitors,” Vishah Saeed elaborates.
As the resorts get ready to send their guests to Vaadhoo Island, the project is looking to bring together partners to assist the islands develop proper business plans to facilitate the success of the eco-tourism concept. UNDP will also introduce the concept to other islands through follow-up forums planned to be held at different locations in the country, bringing together the myriad resorts and untapped islands, to educate travellers, to promote ecological and cultural conservation, and benefit economic development and empowerment of local communities in the Maldives.
- Amazing work done by Gammu Development Society (GDS) in Laamu Gan, where local farmers are being trained on composting and turning waste into a resource which can be used in agriculture. This is one of the small grants projects being carried out under the Maldives Tourism Adaptation Platform - MTAP's small grants initiative. 9 hours ago
- MEET THE TEAM TUESDAY MIZY MUSTHAFA "From Pastries to Development Work" Meet Mizy. She's our Programme Assistant for the Tourism Adaptation Project - Small Grants Programme. "Working for the UN was on my career bucket list. So was working for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Getting to work for both by the age of 22 was nothing short of amazing! It seemed indecisive at the time, not knowing for sure which interests to pursue. Today, I’m thankful for the experiences I have had – be it starting work in the fitness industry at 16, interning in a patisserie while studying for my culinary arts degree, working for NGOs fighting for feminism or volunteering to raise awareness about congenital heart diseases. The common denominator for all of this has been getting to serve people and contributing to make communities better. That is where my true passion lies. Being homeschooled for a few years allowed me to explore various subjects. As such, studying English literature has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever. It has taken me places and introduced to me to people who have me wide-eyed and curious. I fall in love over and over again with the works of writers like Maya Angelou or John Keats. (It goes without saying that, yes, I am a Potterhead!) Our oceans’ conservation, gender parity, great reads, good chocolate, body image positivity, sustainable development – these are a few of my favourite things!" Yesterday AT 05:16 AM
- "See more posts on"Facebook