The World Travel Writers’ Conference in the Maldives

The first World Travel Writers’ Conference was held in the Maldives during September 2017. Stuart Forster reports.

Palm trees over a white sandy beach, a scene typical of the Maldives.

Palm tree by accommodation at Bandos Resort in the Maldives.

Around a month ago I received an email asking if I would be interested in speaking during a panel discussion at the inaugural World Travel Writers’ Conference in the Maldives.

Given the enormous number of travel writers in the world I was flattered to receive an invitation to such a prestigious event. I responded immediately. It would, of course, be an honour to participate. Fortunately, I had a few days free when the conference was being planned, so could accept the invitation.

Over water restaurants and villas are part of the scenery in the Maldives.

Over water restaurants and villas are part of the scenery in the Maldives.

Organised by Maldives TV

I learnt that the World Travel Writers’ Conference was being organised by Maldives TV, the Maldives’ first international television channel. The channel was launched at the 2017 ITB Berlin, the annual travel trade event held each springtime in the German capital, after plans were unveiled at the 2016 World Travel Market in London.

The waterfront Sea Breeze restaurant at Bandos Resort.

The waterfront Sea Breeze restaurant at Bandos Resort.

Travel writers and social media experts from 10 different countries participated at the event. Travel bloggers Janet Newenham, from Ireland, and Liz Carlson, from New Zealand, gave keynote speeches. So too did USA-based Gina Samarotto, the editor of Private Air Magazine. Ahmed Ijaz and Dr Sunny Umar, from the Maldives, also took to the stage to give keynote speeches.

A footprint in the sand on a Maldivian beach.

A footprint in the sand on a Maldivian beach.

Instagram and films in travel

Attendees, and fellow participants in panel discussions, included the Dutch Instagram star Tom Grond and the American filmmaker JJ Yosh. Modern travel writing, in its broadest sense, goes way beyond writing features for print publications and can reach niche audiences via social media followings.

Stuart Forster silhouetted by the setting sun in the Maldives.

Stuart Forster silhouetted by the setting sun in the Maldives.

The conference was held on 17 September at Bandos Maldives resort. The Maldives operates the concept of one island, one resort. That meant several the attendees had to arrive by boat from their accommodation at the Adaraan, Coco Collection  and Kandima resorts.

Yulia Safotdinova, of the blog Miss Tourist, enjoys a dip in the sea.

Yulia Safotdinova, of the blog Miss Tourist, enjoys a dip in the sea.

Time in the Maldives

Spending time in the Maldives gave participants such as myself an opportunity to experience the hospitality and tropical scenery that has helped establish the islands as one of the world’s leading luxury travel destinations. It also meant that we saw that the Maldives are not merely suited to honeymoons and romantic holidays in over-water villas.

A boat in the harbour at Huraa Island.

A boat in the harbour at Huraa Island.

Guesthouses provide an affordable alternative to luxury resorts, meaning there’s now scope for travellers with limited budgets to spend time in the Maldives. They are based on so-called ‘local islands’ which give visitors an opportunity to observe the everyday rhythm of Maldivian life. Strolling around Huraa Island, which is inhabited by around 600 people, provided an opportunity for me to chat with shopkeepers and people in the streets.

Fatima, a local on Huraa Island, the Maldives.

Fatima, a local on Huraa Island, the Maldives.

Scuba diving and snorkelling

The quality of the scuba diving and snorkelling in the water off Bandos Island impressed me. One highlight was swimming with a hawksbill turtle while seeing black tipped reef sharks glide overhead. Creatures such as well-camouflaged scorpion fish, colourful parrot fish and a couple of types of starfish made spending time in the water rewarding.

Another way of seeing fish. A man shows off a catch during a dusk linefishing trip.

Another way of seeing fish. A man shows off a catch during a dusk linefishing trip.

2016’s El Niño resulted in the bleaching of coral but we saw some signs of recovery while snorkelling on the house reef of the Bandos Resort. I’d relish returning to do more diving there and further out at sea. A handful of divers returned from a trip in which they spotted dozens of manta rays, creatures I’d love to see in their natural environment one day.

A dolphin swimming in the sea off the Maldives.

A dolphin swimming in the sea off the Maldives.

Visiting the Maldives with friends

I hadn’t expected to find that the Maldives would be the kind of destination I’d consider visiting with a group of friends. I had it pegged firmly as a romantic getaway. But the range of activities that can be undertaken on or in the water mean I’ve now revised that view and can envisage returning for a special celebration.

Jump for joy! Three World Travel Writers' Conference attendees on the beach at Bandos Resort.

Jump for joy! Three World Travel Writers’ Conference attendees on the beach at Bandos Resort.

All of us attending the World Travel Writers’ Conference were provided with details of development plans for the Maldives. The islands’ principal international gateway, Velana International Airport, on Male, is currently undergoing a $1 billion renovation and expansion. The planned work is due for completion in 2020. A youth city and port expansion programme also count among the major infrastructural projects planned for the Maldives over coming years.

Love the Maldives? A heart shape on a white sandy beach.

Love the Maldives? A heart shape on a white sandy beach.

Interacting with fellow attendees at the World Travel Writers’ Conference meant an opportunity to discuss how blogs, social and traditional media can be utilised to tell travel stories. The world of travel writing has never been so immediate and interactive.

The Maldives - a holiday destination that can reward visits by groups of friends.

The Maldives – a holiday destination that can reward visits by groups of friends.

Further information

Stuart Forster is a travel writer and the blogger behind Go Eat Do. He flew to the Maldives on Qatar Airways, which operates a service via its Doha hub.

Photographs illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.

Stuart Forster at Paradise Island Resort in the Maldives.

Stuart Forster on the jetty at Paradise Island Resort in the Maldives.

5 Comments

  1. Nice experience with nice travelling . great images!

  2. What a beautiful place to have a conference. I’ve never been to the Maldives however your photos and experience shed light on a wonderful place suitable for all, not only honeymooners. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Kamira. The Maldives is a multifaceted destination and we heard glowing very positive things about it from Stuart.

  3. Matt Chapple says:

    Looks a beautiful part of the world. I can see why it’s a hit with honeymooners.

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