Villa Stella pioneered the responsible tourism in the Maldives, encouraging tourists to respectfully access remote Maldivian communities and experience the day to day island life. Since 2003, friends and travelers have been visiting Villa Stella, the first private villa where overseas guests were invited to stay, on the inhabited island of Rinbudhoo, in Dhaalu Atoll. On 10th March 2010, Villa Stella became an official guest house, duly registered at the Ministry of Tourism, and still remains the only one on the island.
It is said that culture and tourism enjoy a symbiotic relationship.Explore Maldives Magazine
The tourism industry were almost exclusively restricted to resort islands. Resort islands are self-contained properties where all the elements of a holiday (accommodation, meals, drinks, sports, and entertainment) are offered within the resort boundaries. Guests rarely leave the resort and thus little money feeds into the local economy. Resorts in the Maldives have lead to what is called “enclave tourism” in which local participation and interaction in these tourism services is very limited. Enclaves are regarded as contrary to responsible and sustainable tourism.
What's more, most of the resorts are owned or operated by foreign companies, thus a great part of the revenues are siphoned out of the country. Among the dispersed islands, in such a remotely located region, local islands were previously secluded from outside interaction; access to the inhabited islands was permitted by personal invitation only. Then, on 22nd July 2008, the Maldivian Parliament proposed an end to the government policy that banned tourist establishments on inhabited islands. Only a month later, on 19th August 2008, the authorization came through, which finally allowed the registration of guests houses located on any island of the archipelago.
Cultural tourism is driven by peoples inherent desire to experience different ways of life.
Local villages away from tourist resorts are almost totally unaffected by contact with the outside world. Though most villages have acquired a telephone connection in the last few years, and radios and TV have been present for a while, in most of them the amount of personal contact is negligible. Those who are fortunate enough to travel and stay outside the resort islands should be especially careful to dress and behave appropriately, to avoid embarrassing their host. Those who spend time in a local village should be aware of a few more points:
Respect of the Muslim religion - Islam is the state religion, so be aware that prayer times take precedence over business and pleasure. Visiting a mosque requires long pants or a long skirt and no shoes. No one should have alcohol or pork outside tourist resorts.Remove your shoes when you enter a house - Slip-on shoes are easier than lace-ups, and thongs (flip flops) are easier than sandals. Dress code - In the local villages, visitors should follow the common rules in terms of clothes. Men usually wear shorts and t-shirts during the day and long pants after sunset. Women always wear dresses below the knees and covering the shoulders and arms. Sunbathing with swimsuit is of course allowed during boat trips and excursions, and in dedicated beachs on the islands.
Staying here gave us the chance to learn about the local history and culture, whether it was checking out the few small shops, visiting the 200 year old mosque or just hanging out on the net deckchairs or lolling on the shady tree swings by the beach.Sally/Australia (TripAdvisor/March 2015)