The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has called for the government to reconsider its budget for tourism marketing in 2013, warning that the country faces increasingly tough competition from neighbouring countries.
The Maldives has budgeted MVR15.5 million (US$1 million) for tourism marketing in 2013, MVR 63 million (US$4 million) less than 2012, MATI noted.
“This is the least amount allocated for marketing in the last eight years,” observed the statement, signed by the industry body’s Chairman, tourism pioneer Mohamed Umar Manik.
MATI noted that Mauritius has allocated 10 million euros (US$13 million) for tourism marketing, while the Indian and Sri Lankan industries were rapidly improving, and questioned the Maldivian government’s regard for the industry and the people working in it.
“Unlike neighboring countries the economy of the Maldives is mostly based on tourism,” the statement observed.
President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad blamed parliament for “deliberately cutting the budget for political motives”.
“They failed to keep the best interest of the nation and people in mind. The toll of these budget cuts will be felt by the people. The Majlis acted very irresponsibly,” he said.
Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) head Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said the country’s destination marketing effort “can’t be compromised.”
“In order to showcase the tourism offerings of the Maldives to the world and maintain our competitive edge we need around US$13 million,” he said.
“Destination marketing activity is an investment, it’s not recurrent expenditure as some may think. The return on the investment is in the form of better image, investor confidence, higher occupancy, high yield tourists, longer duration of stay and importantly higher revenue to the government. I hope parliamentarians who slashed destination marketing budget be more responsible in their actions,” Maleeh said.
Tourism promotion efforts last year included a US$250,000 (MVR 3.8 million) advertising deal to promote the country’s tourism industry on the BBC through sponsorship of its weather service, as well as a signing £93,000 per month (US$150,000) contract with public relations group Ruder Finn to try and improve the country’s image following February’s controversial transfer of power.
Despite the increased expenditure, tourism growth slowed to just 0.7 percent in 2012, compared to 15.8 percent in 2010 and 9.1 percent in 2011.
The government’s forecast for economic growth in 2013 is 4.3 percent.