Our distinguished entrepreneur Mr. Afeef, Mr. Saeed and management. Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed a great pleasure for me and my team to be invited here to officially inaugurate this beautiful exotic property of Club Med Gasfinolhu Villas. The tourism industry has its very humble beginnings in the early 1970s in the Maldives. No one at that time thought that we could ever achieve or attain this kind of success as a tourist destination, especially as a small country that literally imported almost everything. All the experts and consultants who came to the Maldives at that time advised the Government that tourism would never be good in Maldives. But, with the test of time, and as the tourism industry has matured, we have been seeing these blooming exotic properties here in the Maldives, despite in the early years thinking that tourism would never be successful in the Maldives.
Tourism has taught us in the Maldives the art of living together. The art of one globalized world. The art of living with different cultures: Maldivian culture along with cultures from Japan, Australia, and other first world countries.
Here today, while we officially inaugurate this beautiful and enchanting property which is going to be a honeymooners’ paradise, we also note that this is the first resort property that is going to be powered entirely by solar energy. This is indeed a most welcome gesture to a petroleum importing country like the Maldives. While the prices of crude and refined petroleum are ever low in the world today, we still appreciate the eagerness of the tourism entrepreneurs in moving into solar energy.
As the tourism industry matures in 2015 in the Maldives, most of the important hotel chains can be found here. But at the same time, we face challenges as well. The challenges we face are due to the economic conditions here in the Maldives, at this point in time. We have a brand new vision for the Maldives; my cabinet colleagues and I are going to improve and transform our economy. This is largely going to be driven by tourism.
Tourism is the back bone of our economy, but at the same time the most challenges are being faced by the tourism industry. Presently, the international airport here in the Maldives caters for something like a million and a half people. Our vision over the next three to four years is to double and quadruple this number; to have an international airport that will be able to cater for six to seven million people. This is no easy task for Maldivians: a country that is small, a country that is almost impoverished. Yet, we always rise to challenges like these. So we have a plan to improve the international airport, while at the same time embarking on a massive, massive economic transformation project. We are talking, in the Maldivian context, about mega projects. We are talking about land connectivity between the two main, or the two most populous island cities in Maldives, which is the capital Male’, and also the airport island. We are going to see an increasing number of Maldivians concentrated in this area. Of course, there are pluses and minuses to this. But as a Government, as people who lead people, we believe that the benefits we obtain by combining these two populations are enormous. But the challenges for us to develop this are equally enormous. Fortunately, the commitment is there from the Government of China. On this occasion, let me congratulate and express my appreciation for the efforts of the Chinese President in assisting the realisation of this dream for the Maldivian people.
While we embark on these ambitious projects here in the Maldives, we would also like Maldives to be a peaceful, calm society that is able to cohabit with international travellers who come to Maldives. Guests like you. We would like to express to you that the Maldivian people are very hospitable people. While the religion here in the Maldives is Islam, I would like to reiterate in your presence again that Islam is a religion that appreciates coexistence. Islam is a religion that preaches tolerance; Islam is a religion that preaches peace. So that is the kind of Islam that we would like to practice here in Maldives.
Lots of rumours about Maldives have been spreading around the world. But as good ambassadors, we would like you to carry back to your countries and to the whole world that the Islam we have here in the Maldives is a very tolerant Islam. In fact, the essence of Islam preaches peaceful co-existence with the neighbourly people of the world. We are a peaceful people; we are a humble people. We like to invite guests from all over the world. That is why 40 years of tourism in Maldives have been so remarkably successful. We open few properties every year. But I am sure that the Club Med Gasfinolhu property is going to be a unique exotic experience for the vacationers who come to the Maldives.
While you may like to know that the ambitious economic transformation programme in the Maldives seeks to bring a better life to the people of Maldives, it also seeks to bring a better life to the tourists who come to the Maldives. It’s a way for us to say that there is more happiness for you to seek here in the Maldives.
Maldives is driven by a dynamic economic agenda. My government does not pay too much attention to politics. We would like to see Maldives as a country of peaceful coexistence with the guests who come here. This is going to be in fact, an enchanted place for all the vacationers who come to these beautiful idyllic resort islands here in the Maldives. We would like you to take these messages of coexistence, these messages of humbleness, and these messages of peacefulness that you find here in Maldives back to your countries.
While you are vacationing here, while you are in the pool, while you are enjoying the grandeur of this property, no one probably remembers the incidents that happened in Paris a few weeks back. While the world is a very vicious place, we would like to assure you that Maldives is a peaceful place. It’s a peaceful place that attracts vacationers from all over the world: Muslims, non-Muslims, Christians, and people from all religions. For us, each and every one of you is a very important guest here in our country. Our economic transformation projects and several projects that are included in this package are going to provide better facilities to the tourists who come here to the Maldives. The airport is already congested; we would like to relieve the congestion in the airport. We would like to be able to cater to close to six to seven million people. We would like to open several more properties of this calibre. Presently the whole economy is based on tourism; we would like to diversify our economy. But as we try to diversify our economy, the challenges are enormous as well. This is why we are embarking on these transformational projects.
Also as ambassadors, I would like each one of you to take a message back home. In small impoverished countries in Asia, such as the Maldives, we are trying to improve our standard of living through economics and from paying travellers from all over the world. Unfortunately, as small countries like the Maldives don’t hold the same ideological beliefs as first world countries, we are being economically taxed. Our whole economy is being taxed at this point in time. So, as ambassadors, as patrons of our tourism industry, as patrons of our hospitality, we would like each and every one of you to take this message back to your Senators, your Congressman, to your Parliamentarians. Please tell them that all of these small countries would all like to live peacefully. But how can you live peacefully if you are going to be impoverished and if the design is to be in impoverishment forever. There is no way that there can be a peaceful co-existence. Just because we are not able to share some of the liberal values of some of the first world countries, the economic regime of small countries are being taxed.
So while you enjoy our hospitality and meet the friendly people of Maldives, I am sure each and every one of you will tell your Congressmen and your Parliamentarians that Maldives doesn’t deserve to be punished the way it is being punished now. Democracy is after all a code in the faith of the majority of the people. This is what we learned from the universities that teach us democracy and good governance. So the aspirations of our people to stick to a particular faith does not mean that it is an excuse for the Maldives to be punished. I would like each and every one of you to take this message back home. Here is a country that is playing host to people, to vacationers from all over the world. For us, each and every one of you is very special. Each and every one of you is very dear to all of us. We would like to be very good hosts to all of you who come here.
We would like you to enjoy your life. We would like you to enjoy your life most abundantly while you stay here in the Maldives, in these idyllic exotic destinations. Many more of these resorts are sure to be opened up in the future. This is the economic dream of our country at this point in time.
My last message is that tourism can flourish in any country, if there is peace in that particular country. Here is a country, here is a people who loves to enjoy peace and who loves to share this peace with vacationers: with the friendly people who come and enjoy all the activities here in our country.
God bless all of you and let all of you have a beautiful and splendid time here in this boutique resort. I am honoured and privileged to open this exotic resort island. Wishing all of you a pleasant stay in the Maldives and hoping that all of you will be repeat travellers to the Maldives.