Surging Tourism Revenue Underscores Immediate Need for Economic Reforms to Enhance Local USD Flow

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators recently published data forecasting a rise in tourism revenue, indicating good economic growth for the Maldives. Yet, an underlying issue emerges as much of this revenue does not re-enter the local economy, intensifying a dollar shortage.




The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has unveiled data predicting a considerable rise in tourism revenue within the Maldives, heralding a period of substantial economic growth for the nation. Despite the positive forecast, which anticipates the Maldives’ state revenue from tourism hitting US$1.02 billion in 2024, thanks to a 77 percent occupancy rate across 61,518 beds and an 11.6 percent increase in tourist arrivals, an urgent issue has come to light: a significant share of this tourism revenue is not being cycled back into the Maldives’ local economy, thus aggravating an existing dollar shortage crisis.


This escalating dollar shortage is impeding The Maldivian banks’ capacity for processing international transactions and is further exacerbating challenges for Maldivian students abroad, awaiting the fulfilment of promises to enhance USD transaction limits. MP Ahmed Easa, during an October 2024 parliamentary debate, underscored that although the Maldives garners an estimated US$4-5 billion yearly from tourism, under 20 percent of this sum is re-injected into the Maldivian economy. The crux of this issue lies in the tendency of resort owners or operators to remit a bulk of room sale revenues to overseas accounts.


In response, Easa has proposed a series of legislative reforms aimed at ensuring a larger portion of foreign exchange earnings remains within the Maldives. These reforms suggest obligating businesses to deposit their foreign currency income into Maldivian banks prior to any foreign remittance and instituting a mandatory period for retaining foreign currency in local banks as strategies to prevent the swift outflow of funds.


Recognizing the detrimental effects of inadequate foreign currency retention, President Mohamed Muizzu has pledged to enact legal and regulatory adjustments to guarantee that a more substantial part of the dollar revenue generated from tourism circulates within the Maldivian financial ecosystem.


In light of these developments, MATATO has expressed grave concerns regarding the persistent dollar shortage, emphasizing the critical need for swift administrative measures to fortify the Maldivian economy and alleviate the negative impacts on both the tourism industry and the broader economic framework of the Maldives. The association’s demand for prompt action underscores the pivotal juncture at which the Maldivian executive and regulatory entities must act to ensure the forecasted increase in tourism revenue yields tangible enhancements for the Maldivian local economy.



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