Conceptualising State-Controlled Resort Islands for an Environment-Friendly Development of Tourism: The Maldivian Experience



The Maldives host a sophisticated and competitive international tourist industry which has replaced fishing as the dominant economic activity. With their rich tropical reef ecosystems and the abundant biodiversity of their marine environment, a total of 86 uninhabited islands had been converted into Resort Islands by the end of 2000. Resort Islands are equipped with comprehensive facilities for accommodation, food, recreation and leisure. They are also strictly reserved for foreign tourists and guarantee complete privacy. This gives the benefit of averting conflicts of acculturation with local islanders. In the arena of impacts on the physical environment, however, the consumptive leisure lifestyle of the tourists has been harmful to the Resort Islands as seen in sewage, garbage and waste pollution, as well as reef destruction and beach erosion. While the government of the Maldives takes great effort to harmonise tourism and the environment, the growth of mass tourism in the last 20 years has engendered grave environmental impacts. For future sustainable development of the Resort Islands, the tourists' environmental awareness must be increased to promote greater responsibility for the protection of the fragile coral and reef ecosystems of the Maldives.