Because of its clear waters, distinctive corals, and sandy white beaches, Maldives has many features to attract tourists. As a result, tourism by 1989 had become the country's major source of foreign exchange, surpassing fishing. In 1992 tourism income constituted 17 percent of GDP. Furthermore, tourism is expected to increase as the government infrastructure improvement projects in the areas of transportation, communications, sanitation, water supply, and other support facilities are put into place.
Since the 1970s, approximately fifty resorts, mostly consisting of thatched bungalows, have been built on many uninhabited islands on Male Atoll. In 1990 a dozen new resorts were under construction on Maldives. In the following year, 196,112 tourists visited Maldives, primarily from Germany, Italy, Britain, and Japan in that order.
Tourist facilities have been developed by private companies and in 1991 consisted of sixty-eight "island resorts" with nearly 8,000 hotel beds. Tourists are not allowed to stay on Male so as not to affect adversely the Muslim life-style of the indigenous people. Wilingili Island has also been off limits for tourist accommodation since 1990 to allow for population overflow from Male to settle there.
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