The island of Vadoo, The Maldives: Island number 3 (out of 100). Country number 3 (out of 25). Month 2 (out of 100)
The chef approached us last night at dinner with a big, friendly smile as he asked us: “Since you are staying for so long, can we treat you for a free dinner surprise?”
We were, needless to say grateful, but also a little bit puzzled – we had just told him that we were only in the Maldives for 5 days.
But it turns out that makes us long-stayers in the world that Maldives now finds itself in.
Our butler, Deepu, later explained to us that the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka has changed everything.
So how did peace in Sri Lanka transform the tourism industry of the Maldives?
Let’s start from the beginning.
It used to be that the foreigners from far away lands (like Europe, USA – and lately China) flew in the Maldives and stayed for 10, 12, 15 days – or longer – before going back home.
The Maldives has, for the longest time, been the definition of paradise. It’s THE honeymoon destination of the world.
It has a very strong brand as the number one tropical island vacation spot in the world. As it should, it’s an awesome place to experience.
But it is expensive.
So historically the people who came to the Maldives where wealthy people who could afford to stay two weeks or more once they had arrived from the long, and equally expensive, flight.
But then the war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government ended.
After more than 25 years of bloody fighting the civil war had almost torn the beautiful island of Sri Lanka apart, and the killings, bombings and terrorist attacks had scared away almost all tourists for decades.
When peace finally arrived the island exploded with tourism developments.
Sri Lanka is an island, it’s as big as Ireland, full of culture, and with a beach that virtually goes around the entire island.
The country formally known as Ceylon is now trying to get tourists to discover that peace has arrived in paradise and that it is now safe to come and visit all these new resorts that they have built.
Which means that Sri Lanka is currently cheap.
Very cheap if you compare it with the Maldives.
Which brings us to the logic behind the Paradox of Paradise which goes something like this:
1) Because the Maldives has a strong brand a lot of people want to go to the Maldives.
2) But because of the strong brand and strong demand the cost per night for staying in the Maldives is very high.
3) That means that people want to go – but actually prefer to not stay so long.
When Sri Lanka was still an island at war with itself it meant that the Maldives was just too far away for tourists to fly into only for a few nights, which meant that the people who could afford to come here were people who could afford to pay the expensive rates for many nights.
But now you can comfortably “top-up” your affordable Sri Lanka vacation with a cheap and quick 1-hour flight from Sri Lanka to stay 2, 3 or 4 nights in the Maldives. (Enough so that you can do some snorkeling, have a night in a villa on the water – and most importantly – post on Facebook to your friends: “Look, here I am in the Maldives!”.)
These new guest fly in, check in – and fly out again.
The strong brand of the Maldives drives these tourists to the islands.
The expensive prices of the Maldives resorts drives them away after a few days.
Why spend +1000 USD per night for two weeks in the Maldives when you can have 10 days on the beaches of Sri Lanka for a fraction of that cost and then still end your vacation with 3 or 4 nights in the Maldives, so you can still say that you have been there?
That is what I learnt from visiting the island of Vadoo in the Maldives today: That peace in one paradise can change the business dynamics of another country. We are all connected – our worlds more interconnected – in more ways than we think.
Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life.
The Maldives was island number 3, country number 3 and months number 2.