Tourists looking forward to a dream holiday in the Maldives have been forced to change their plans after the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia reportedly booked out three entire island resorts exclusively for himself, according to a report by the UK-based Daily Mail newspaper.
Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is understood to have taken over the five-star resorts for nearly a month.
It comes as Saudi media reported that the Maldives was set to seek Saudi investments and partnerships in energy, tourism, transport and Islamic affairs, as well as a soft loan facility of $300m with Crown Prince Salman due for official talks in Male later this month.
The Daily Mail said it was believed the 78-year-old heir to the Saudi throne paid $30m for the resorts of Anantara Veli, Naladhu and Anantara Dighu from February 19 to March 15.
According to a report on the website maldivesfinest.com, the Saudi prince was due to arrive in the Maldives with a floating hospital, a luxury yacht and more than 100 bodyguards.
But the last minute booking has upset holidaymakers who have had their reservations cancelled.
Posting a review on the travel website TripAdvisor, one disgruntled holidaymaker who was due to stay at the Antantara Veli resort, wrote: “Our reservation was cancelled with NO notice and we were informed only AFTER we contacted them.
“Back in December we booked the Anantara Veli in an overwater pool villa for a four night stay in early March. Three weeks prior to our departure we emailed the Anantara Veli to confirm our airport pick up and a few other details.
“As a result of our email to Anantara and a call to our booking agent we finally learned that the hotel had simply cancelled our reservation and, I assume, those of many others. They did this without apprising us of this cancellation,” the holidaymaker said.
Anantara said they said they now had a booking for the period including February 19 until March 15 which, after negotiations, developed into a request for total private island buyout of Anantara Veli and Naladhu.
The holidaymaker, going by the name Buford33, said he was offered a “less desirable resort” as an alternative, but turned it down.
“The message we took away was ‘to hell with clients who took the time to book in advance if we can make more money through a single group, total island booking’,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Anantara resorts insisted all their guests were happy with the alternative accommodation they had been offered.
“At Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, the wellbeing of our guests is always our primary concern and we consistently seek to address and allay any queries or concerns that are brought to our attention,” she said.
“Whilst we are not at liberty to discuss individual reservations or visits, we would like to share that on the rare occasion that a change occurs in the status of a booking, we try our utmost to ensure the guest's satisfaction throughout the process.”
The Daily Mail said attempts to book rooms in any of the three Anantara hotels during the period of the Crown Prince's stay were met with a 'fully booked' message on the hotel group's website.
The Arab News reported the Crown Prince’s official business trip to the Maldives comes in response to the invitation extended by Maldivian President Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Maldivian Ambassador Adam Hassan said that the visit signified growing relations between the Kingdom and the Maldives.
“Both nations share common approaches on a whole range of bilateral, regional and international issues,” he said.
Maldives was also elected to the UN Human Rights Council together with Saudi Arabia in November.
Discussions about credit facilities began last year during the Maldivian presidential visit to Riyadh, the Arab News reported.