The Ministry of Tourism has announced it is seeking the appointment of a celebrity ambassador for the Maldives, through a company based in Singapore.
Deputy Tourism Minister and head of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, told local media the government was in the process of selecting the most suitable celebrity on offer.
“We are currently holding discussions, the most suitable celebrities for Maldives and the prices they offer, we are discussing such things now,” Maleeh told Sun Online.
Maleeh and Adheeb were not responding to calls at time of press to speculate on the qualities the Maldives would look for in its celebrity ambassador, or the potential cost of such an endorsement.
Former Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim, told Minivan News the proposal was a good idea – “it will generate sound bites, column inches and other publicity” – but suggested the government seek a “goodwill ambassador” rather than a paid celebrity.
“I don’t know how much the government has in their marketing budget, but I’ve heard there is an issue with low funds. If they have the money, then why not [go ahead]? But if they don’t, there’s other basic marketing to spend the limited resources on,” he said.
“[The ambassador] should not be financially-motivated; it should be someone who has a warmth for the country. Someone like Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, or Bill Gates,” he suggested.
Following a reported £250,000 visit in December to the One and Only resort by football star David Beckham, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told Minivan News the Maldives was prized by celebrities because of the seclusion and privacy of the country’s ‘one island, one resort’ model.
“Right now we are formulating policies to encourage more VVIPs to the Maldives. They can add a lot of value to a destination solely on the grounds that so many people follow them,” Adheeb said.
”We want to let the world know how unique a destination it is. How safe it is. How can we then give mores exclusivity to VVIPs? We offer privacy, the islands are free of paparazzi, that’s how we have made the Maldives unique. It is a celebrity destination,” he added.
The tourism budget for 2013 was increased from MVR 20 million (US$1.2 million) to MVR 80 million (US$5.1 million) at the start of the year, following criticism from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) that the amount was too low.
The initial sum of money allocated was the lowest in eight years, according to a statement from MATI at the time.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media at the time that the ministry had initially requested a budget of MVR 200 million (US$12.9 million) to carry out tourism promotion for the year, however parliament had “erased a zero” from the figure when finalising the budget.
Adheeb noted that while tourism promotion is expensive, the revenue generated from the industry “drives the entire engine”.