SATA President Mr. Ismail Hameed. Minister of Tourism Dr Abdulla Mausoom, Ambassadors, Distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen.
And a very good evening to you all.
I am pleased to join you this evening for the sixth edition of the South Asian Travel Awards (SATA) 2022 gala event. And I take pleasure in welcoming you, who travelled from far and wide, to the Sunny Side of Life and this grand event.
I also take pride in congratulating the winners of the prestigious awards this evening. Today, we are recognising and celebrating the enormous efforts, unwavering dedication, resolute energy and noble sacrifice of the men and women behind the success of the tourism sector in the region of South Asia.
The awards are being held here in this pristine environment of Adaaran Select Hudhuran Fushi Maldives Resort at a most opportune time. It is a jubilating year for us here in the Maldives as we celebrate our golden year of tourism.
I was at the CROSSROADS Maldives yesterday with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as we recognised the recipients of the “Tourism Golden Year Appreciation” awards. And just two days from now, on October 3rd, we will celebrate The National Tourism Day for the very first time in the Maldives.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Maldives is synonymous with pristine beaches, azure lagoons, and picture-perfect islands. With mesmerising flora and fauna. One of the most sought-after travel destinations. But, there is much more to what makes the Maldives the leading travel destination.
I believe the genuine Maldivian hospitality makes us who we are today. Hospitality is our true nature; it is in the blood that runs in our veins and has been so for millennia. Our warm, friendly and generous reception and our mindset to provide our guests with the best possible holiday experience make us unique.
If not for all those characteristics and qualities of our tourism sector employees, the Maldives would not be the thriving travel destination as we know it today. For the past 50 years, we have put smiles on the faces of millions of our guests. Whilst they take home the memories of our beautiful islands, it is our hospitality they cherish for the rest of their lives. It is what makes Maldives’ hospitality second to none.
We must go back 50 years in time, as we must thank the pioneers of tourism in the Maldives. It was the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of a young few who, against all odds, overcame the many challenges and introduced tourism here. It is their toil to which we owe an outstanding debt. And it is their triumph, those who followed in their footsteps, and that of every tourism sector employee that we celebrate 50 years later.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The past two years have been a distressing time for the travel industry, especially in South Asia. Following the alarming news of the spread of a mysterious virus in early 2020, one of our first decisions was to meet tourism industry stakeholders. We deliberated on identifying the catastrophic impact it can have on our economy, our livelihoods and our socio-economic development.
When the global pandemic hit, we were forced to close our borders and shutter our tourist resorts and guesthouses. Tourism income, the most significant contributor to our GDP, trickled to a stop. Employees were laid off; and it wreaked havoc on our small economy and shook our industry to its core.
It was the leadership of President Solih that helped us all weather the storm. His first and foremost decision was to seek the advice of experts. In the case of Covid, it was healthcare professionals. And when it came to the tourism sector, it was tourism sector stakeholders.
The collective efforts of the government and the tourism industry owners, operators, developers, investors, other stakeholders and every person employed in the sector, allowed us to reopen our borders and invite travellers back to our white sandy beaches.
We perserved and we overcame the challenges together. The support of the industry to our administration was paramount on our road to recovery. I would like to take this opportunity to thank industry stakeholders for the support and cooperation accorded to our administration towards this end.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers of SATA. Since its launch in 2016, with the representation of the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka, it has become a unique platform celebrating the finest in South Asian hospitality. The representation of six destinations in SATA today, with the addition of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, South Asia has to offer the best in the world. And it is a testament to the success of these prestigious awards.
Before I conclude, let me reiterate the commitment of our administration to continue our engagement with the industry and to support and assist you every step of the way. Our policy is to expand tourism to the north and south of the country and establish the necessary support services, including sustainable and affordable air and sea transportation. We are committed to standing by your side as your true friend and partner.
I thank you very much for this opportunity.
Thank you once again.