Comment: Travel awards for the less privileged

The World Travel Awards event held at Paradise Island on Sunday night was a resounding success for tourism in Maldives.

Out of a possible 57 awards in the Indian Ocean category, the Maldives won 35 including the ‘Leading Destination’ title. All the wins listed on the worldtravelawards.com site seem to solidify Maldives’ position as the leading travel destination in the region.

In fact, this success certainly disproves the theory that the tourism industry has taken a hit from the February 2012 transfer of power.

So how does the pageant touted by some as the Oscars of the travel and tourism industry stack up against the likes of British Guild of Travel Writers’ (BGTW) Tourism Awards or the Michelin Green Guide?

The obvious difference between World Travel Awards and most of its competition is the former’s expansive list of categories and titles. The BGTW Tourism Awards has fewer categories in which thousands of potential businesses across the globe compete.

In contrast, businesses have a much better chance of taking a win from competing in the World Travel Awards. However, that maybe the only thing the World Travel Awards has going for it, because behind the veil of all the glitz and gala is a highly questionable business.

The first item of interest is the contact address given on the worldtravelawards.com website. The address ‘SE1 8SJ, London’ comes up as a stall in the visitor centre in London’s Waterloo Station.

For an awards show with 20 years of history, a stall in a visitor centre seems a little too modest. What is more surprising is that the address is home to another 33 companies under the same ownership as the World Travel Awards Limited, the company running the awards.

The World Travel Awards Limited is currently owned by a single shareholder, a Mr Graham Edward Cooke, who has listed Bayham Hall, Bayham Abbey in Kent as his address in the company’s articles of association. The company was originally registered with four shareholders holding a total of 200 shares worth a total value of GBP£200.

In the latest annual return filed by the company, the capital situation remained the same whilst Mr Graham Edward Cooke had become the sole owner. The company secretary is a Miss Manyoung Han.

Like the registered address of the company, Mr. Cooke and Miss Han also have highly quizzical places of residence. The website companiesintheuk.co.uk lists 101 other individuals and 24 other companies sharing the same address as Mr Cooke, and 46 individuals and 8 companies sharing Miss Han’s address. This clearly indicates that both addresses are for mail forwarding services.

As for the company’s address, 33 other companies sharing it suggests that it too may be another mail forwarding service. As for the 33 other companies owned by Mr Cooke, they have all posted little or no profits and have had dozens of dissolution notices served across the lot of them.

Why then did the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board enlist the services of this company given its questionable reputation?

Perhaps the lack of reputation is in itself an advantage. Since the company never declared a capital greater than GBP£200 throughout its existence it would not be difficult to incentivise the declaration of more wins for the Maldives. This leaves two questions to be answered.

Firstly, did the government of Maldives truly know that the company they were dealing with was really a shell corporation? If it did not, then did they really pay exorbitant sums to advertise on the awards website?

The second question is, if the government did know the nature of the company, why then were they given such broad coverage?

Could that not be interpreted as the country’s admission of the weakness of its tourism industry? Should it not be engaging a stronger partner like Michelin instead?

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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15 thoughts on “Comment: Travel awards for the less privileged”

  1. ....fantastic investigative reporting, however, its in our blood not to know or want to know even if if we know.

    The recent A-brother's who smuggled drugs in goats and in vehicles....we saw who met them, entertained them, but when the question was asked to their local friends and partners, they all denied that they had no contacts. But we all knew the truth but as usual, we pretend we didnt.

    Maldives style!

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  2. Industry insiders know this much.

    Paradise Island - An ecological hellhole.

    Atoll Paradise - Bankrupt or nearly there. Owes many resorts. Hastily pays cash to resorts, on arrival of guests, ie if resorts threaten not to accept the customer.

    INIA - I do not need to fill any body in.

    With the above as winners, not winning, for many, must be a win.

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  3. These awards are obtained by the paying huge sums of money to the organizers. Mr Champa Hussain Afeef and Mr Ibrahim Hussain Zaki are well known in organizing such awards for former President Gayoom. This is there ball game. kekekeke..

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  4. ISSUE: Independent contributor suggests that an international award is being manipulated as a marketing tool.

    Is this legal?
    Yes, and widely practiced.

    My opinion?
    Awards and accolades in the modern context are often used to raise the status/image of individuals, entities and governments. This is nothing new. If revenue for the tourism industry increases due to said event then the entire country stands to gain from the increased income. Should the country aspire to more secure more prestigious and harder-to-win awards? Yes, by all means. However it should not prevent us from making use of any marketing tool available. Development of industries do not benefit political parties or figures. If we can move forward with tax reform and better monitoring of government spending then any advantage to the our tourism industry is a windfall for us.

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  5. @'tsk tsk':

    I believe the author has clarified that the company is defrauded the government. This would not be the first time this company has done it - just look it up on a search engine. So far, across the globe they have only defrauded smaller firms, whose regulatory mechanisms are limited. Maldives might be their biggest take yet.

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  6. Also, remember that businesses are 'nominated' for awards by themselves or others. And here the key: businesses can also nominated by WTA itself. When there aren't enough respondents they themselves nominate names of businesses from various regions and declare them winners in various categories. After all, this how these scams the appearance of normalcy.

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  7. Tourism minister adeeb & MATI just made a fool of Maldivians . & fooled Prez Waheed.
    This article clearly shows how huge this scam is . WTO needs to investigate this matter urgently.

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  8. This is not the first time they had this award. They had been doing this for last 20 years . So what the hell is wrong having this even in Maldives this year?

    If this was first of their award, then i can understand but they have been doing this for 20 years and the guy is British.

    Even this year they had this award in Dubai, Australia, Europe , America and Africa and they did is on continent basis.

    UNWTO has to do an investigation now, then you mean that UNWTO was sleeping for last 20 years ?

    This become no surprise since Minivan is the propaganda machine of Nasheed .

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  9. they have no/lost credibility in hospitality industry. there are about 100 resorts and few participated in this scam.
    ITS FUNNY TO AWARD INDIAN OCEAN LEADING HOTEL BRAND TO VILLA HOTELS

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  10. hey maybe some people don't like to get rewards and awards to get new parties Like lets go Riyaz and Get In to Maldives Mauroof and Atoll Paradise Bagir

    This new people in the industry also should be considered by Maldives government not always Universal,crown,villa,innerMaldives and voyages ,

    good luck

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  11. @aburu; Can tell Bagir to pay his outstanding payment to several resorts, instead of paying for this awards. as far as we know his outstanding to resorts are more than 500,000 US$.
    Riyaz is a big joker in this industry. ask him about his relationship with the secret russian girl friend working in his office.

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  12. Why does World Travel Awards still recognize scammers like Atoll Paradise as one of the best travel agency? Does this mean that they highly appreciate how this so called luxurious travel agency rob innocent tourists with their hard earned money?

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