The Maldives consists of a rich culture and unique traditional cuisine that has not yet been promoted in the region, which is known as a sea, sand, and sun destination. Kivela and Crotts (2005) suggest that gastronomic tourism is an alternative for new destinations that do not benefit from the 'sun, sea and sand' or natural resources. In the destination life cycle when the product begins to decline (Butler 1980) limited options may challenge the sustainability of tourism. As visitors continue seeking unique and culturally enriching activities to maximize the value of their travel experience, destina--tions must continue to evolve through multiple dimensions that provide a valued experience for the guest.
With Maldivian culture shrouded in elements of mystique for many foreign visitors, the nation boasts rich culinary traditions that can promote the intriguing appeal of the islands. Gastronomy, the combination of local cuisine and beverages combined with the culture, traditions, and festivals in the exclusive ambience of the resorts, could become a dynamic package for guests that add value to the Maldives tourism industry and community. Bundled with more diverse tourism activities, greater loyalty to the destination or event may occur through the active participatory nature of involvement in experiencing activities closely connected to the authenticity of a region (Agrusa et al. 2009).
Since the development of luxury resorts in the Maldives over the past 40 years, the economic environment has centered on the luxury resort industry. From 1,097 tourists in 1972, to nearly 800,000 arrivals by the end of 2010, with primary markets consisting of Asia, United Kingdom, Europe, and Russia, the Maldives has rapidly evolved its lucrative tourism industry (World Tourism Organization 2011). China has recently become the fastest developing tourist market to the Maldives while overtaking the previous dominate United Kingdom market and supplying the largest number of arrivals to this island nation (Pacific Asia Travel Association 2011).
Located south of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean roughly 400 km southwest of India, the Maldives is an upscale tourist destination catering to the luxury segment of the market. The main capital island of Male is a small island less than two square kilometers in land mass that is merely two meters above sea level at its highest point. With the Maldives population of over 300,000 residents, Male houses 100,000 inhabitants alone, with the other residents widely dispersed across 200 inhabited islands in this archipelago nation composed of nearly 1,200 remote islands that is naturally divided among 26 atolls. This 100% Islamic nation, recently adopted a democratically elected government in 2008 as well as a newly developed constitution (World Bank 2012). Developed as a "one-island, one-resort" concept with over 100 resorts operating or preparing to operate, the Maldives boasts one of the largest concentrations of four and five star resorts in the world (Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture 2011). Images of pristine white sand beaches, blue ocean lagoons, bungalows over the water, and waving palm trees, the Maldives has been endowed with an abundance of natural assets that has advanced the success of this niche tourism market while also providing the largest contribution to the GDP of the nation (UNDP 2011).
Gastronomy can be one of the easily visible parts of cultural, societal, and artistic values in a society (Groce & Perri 2010; Heagarty & O'Mahony 2001). Scarpato (2002) suggests that gastronomy is the driving force of different cultures while at the same time, contributes to the development and sustainability of tourism. Often used in building the brand of a destination, food is used as a tool for competitiveness and when strategically developed at the national or local level, offers potential for enhancing the visitor experience through this unifying cultural attribute along with increased visitor loyalty (Hall & Mitchell 2000; Hall & Sharples 2003). …