Mid-market appeal amongst 2011 tourism challenges

As a growing number of Asian markets like India begin flocking to the Maldives for their holiday escapes, the country’s tourism minister believes the government’s goal of providing more middle-market beds to “compliment” premium resort properties will boost the industry in the long run.

As the country continues to look at potential revamps for how it markets itself in the tourism market, Dr Mariyam Zulfa, Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, told Minivan News that the Maldives risked being seen as a destination with “too many” premium beds.

However, Zulfa said that in looking to diversify towards more mid-market tourism, the issue of replacing the country’s current “Sunny Side of Life” ad slogan remained under industry consultation – including over whether it should be changed at all.

Zulfa’s comments were made as new findings published by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the Nielsen Company found the Maldives was among several destinations like China, Indonesia and Bangladesh to be attracting increasing interest from Indian travellers.

“The diversification in destinations indicates a greater sense of adventurism and discovery that should be heartening for tourism as a whole, and a clear symptom of a confident Indian consumer mimicking their country’s confidence and prominence,” Neilson Company Executive Director Surekha Poddar stated in the report.

“The Indian traveller is set to become a prized possession as potential spending power and disposition to travel to new countries increases.”

Zulfa said that with income levels in nations like China and India growing in general on a daily basis, the Maldives was beginning to see “exponential growth” in the number of visitors from both of these markets.

“The government has introduced a mid-market policy focusing on three to four star resorts,” she said. “These are being introduced to complement the premium beds we have here.”

Although not willing to speculate if these tourism developments were directly related, Zulfa said that more middle market properties was seen as a move that would be cater to a changing customer demographic.

“Premium beds alone are not suitable for visitors from the South of Asia. We need to look at how to reach out to them,” she said. “These tourists have very different vacation habits to more established markets like Europe.”

Slogan talks

Zulfa claimed that opinion was currently divided on the direction to take on marketing the Maldives to travellers around the world, particularly the merits of changing “the sunny side of life” slogan – one that has been in service for eleven years.

“We will be having informal discussions whilst we will be at the Internationale Tourismus Börse (ITB) – a tourism trade show being held between March 9-13 in Berlin,” she said. “Right now, we have two levels of feedback, one of which is that it [still] works.”

Zulfa added that if a decision was taken to keep the slogan, it would perhaps need to be reintegrated or redesigned with a “more modern” aesthetic.

“There is another reasoning that suggests that although the wording is OK, it is too general,” she said. “The slogan is now 11 years old and perhaps to fill the premium beds we have, a new slogan may be needed to reinvigorate the market. This will be discussed during consultations at the ITB.”

Zulfa said that work was nonetheless continuing on a Maldivian marketing strategy despite uncertainty on the final product.

Mohamed ‘Sim’ Ibrahim, Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), said that MATI did not itself have an opinion on the final outcome of any possible slogan revamp. However, Ibrahim said that MATI hoped to see greater study and research into what the industry itself would prefer to see in terms of branding and marketing.

“We don’t think enough is being done, [in terms of studying the slogan issue],” he said. “We would like to see more cooperation from resorts, airlines, travel companies and other major stakeholders in the Maldives tourism industry.”

From the outset, 2011 is proving to be a year of change for Maldivian tourism, with the implementation of Tourism Goods and Services Tax (GST) on January 1 that placed an additional charge of 3.5 percent on a host of services supplied by the travel industry.

Mohamed said that although he believed that adoption of the GST among service operators had gone “smoothly”, MATI held “serious issues” with the tax related to payments and other technical issues.

The MATI secretary general said he was unable to provide more details about the concerns at present, but added that the association was looking to hold a meeting with resort chains over the issues.

Zulfa claimed that the implementation of the GST had so far gone well for the industry, with no major complaints received concerning the charges.

“Most operators in the tourism industry agree that the 3.5 percent GST is a very reasonable amount to pay,” she said.

“This is a way that more people can equitably benefit from tourism.”


10 thoughts on “Mid-market appeal amongst 2011 tourism challenges”

  1. Change the name of the article to "An interview with the power couple in the Maldivian Tourism Industry"

    Best of luck to Mr & Mrs Mohamed 'Sim' Ibrahim in revamping the tourism industry.

  2. Any potential Indian tourist reading this should note that all non islamic religious artifacts will be confiscated at Male airport and you will have to sign a daft declaration confirming you have not brought in any 'unislamic' material into the country. Best to stay away from this primitive place. Remember the Vilu Reef incident........and spend your tourist dollars elsewhere.

  3. why didn't minivannews tell MATI Sec Gen'l "SIM" the husband of Tourism Minister. hehe this administration is run by people with family influence to president Nasheed. tourism minister, sister of president press secretory. this country sis going to be a colony of India. we know from history how much Malabraees(south Indians) tried to dominate Maldives. History is going to repeat. good luck Maldivians, you people have to talk Indians quoting "Sir" or "Madam", which the colonize masters The British has feed them.

  4. what a dirty mindset remember the same indians have heavely invested in the economy every year they are giving millons of dollars for medicine foods building international airports build houses trained peopleto become the future citizen the people from here get subsidized health care treatement in india they dont charge what they charge for foreigeners there is no need for they indian people to help maldives it is big economic power but still helping here the people here have becomeselfish and dirty minset rember when the ltte attacked it was the indian goverment which acted swiftely and saved many lives

  5. The current slogan is to cheap and trashy, suitable for a package holiday in Bulgaria. Can they get on and make a decision to change it. If you ask a thousand people you will get a thousand different opinions!

  6. These comments are slightly ridiculous.

    Firstly, both Sim and Dr. Zulfa are put on two opposing sides of the issue. The tourism industry strongly protested to changing the slogan because (as I see it) the expenditure required to change their marketing material was simply not worth the any potential increase in clientele. To most of the people who control the tourism industry, they already have their bases, their established clientele, and their relationships with foreign and domestic tour operators and they see no need for change now.

    The Tourism Minister needs to balance this inertia with a policy that will sustain continued development for our nation at a time when our traditional markets are not yielding enough for our country to survive on. Diversification is the only way that we can move forward as a nation. The fact that the Minister has been able to do her job thus far while keeping all parties happy is more than commendable.

    As for 3.5 being "reasonable," ... well, that is putting it kindly. Abroad, most people pay anywhere from 20% to 50% of the profit for businesses in this price range. That's upto a 1 billion dollars that should be going to supporting Maldivians! If we were taxing like any NORMAL country, we would not be reliant on loans and AID from abroad. We could build our bridge to Hulhule' or wherever else we wanted to.

    There is absolutely NO reason for anyone from the tourism industry to moan about a 3.5 GST when it should have been considerably higher.

  7. Well, I have read all of your comments and thought I must jot down my feelings.

    I think we should now grow up and learn to be tolerant. We should respect people of other faiths, cultures and traditions. We should think globally and be civilized enough to accommodate who are living among ourselves inevitably.We are all interdependent and this is a fact we can never deny.

    Just because we belong to a particular political party, we should not say yes to everything the party does. We must understand that truth always prevails and truth is the success towards everything.

    With regard to tourism re-branding; please note that re-branding is a very big exercise, its a very responsible task, it needs to involve lots of expertise.It requires basic home work to be done well in advance. In requires your views, my views, his views, her views, their views and all the stake holders' views. It requires proper analysis of the market, need analysis, proper survey to find out WHY, HOW and WHEN? It requires funds to support the re-branding process which means to market the new brand and to position the new brand in the right market place.

    Re-branding can not be done by merely changing the "SUNNY SIDE OF LIFE" to something else.

    Maldives is a premium brand in the world of holiday destination. For travelers from around the globe, from all walks of life, its considered to be once in a life time experience. This is something that all Maldivians should be proud of today.

    Hence, if we really need a change in our branding and need a new slogan, we may go ahead and do it. But we must involve the stake holders and do a good SWOT analysis and move forward with best ideas.

    We should re-brand it in a way that the existing prestigious image of Maldives still remains and it does not harm what we have achieved over the years as premium brand.

    Good luck!

  8. Rebranding seems to be the way forward for everything for this government. I suggest rebrand President's Office and Maldives too while we are at it.

  9. re-branding is all well and good but where is the budget to undertake such a task? our tourism marketing budget is not able to sustain such a campaign. As it is, even regular marketing and promotional activities are not possible due to budget contstraints.
    we seem to be of the opinion that a change in slogan is all that is required for a re-branding and that woud give a whole new image and face to the tourist product! What we are clearly forgeting is the extensive marketing, advertising and PR activities that will have to follow to enusre that the new slogan and image is reached to the mass. Take the example of Incredible India. Can we even imagine how much their marketing budget would have been?? so lets not even contemplate a re-branding untill we have the financial capability to do this and not jeopardize the only economy that is thriving.

    Coming to GST, its not the 3.5% that was the issue ever, the suddeness and the fact that it came mid season when contracts were already made, brochures were already out. Contracts are negotiated 8-10 months in advance so how can we expect operators or hoteliers to just sit back and accept the consequences??


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