UK media have been covering attempts by Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor to restore confidence in the country’s tourism sector following recent negative headlines regarding political uncertainty in the nation.
Gafoor met with reporters in London last week to push the the message that the Maldives remains a safe destination for tourists – a fact echoed by the UK Foreign Office removing a travel warning against all but essential travel to the capital of Male’.
Reporting for The Daily Telegraph newspaper, journalist Oliver Smith said Gafoor addressed sections of the UK media claiming that the current government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan took allegations of police brutality against protesters opposed to his leadership “very seriously”.
“While it is generally accepted that holidaymakers are unlikely to be caught up in any unrest, as most resorts are found on isolated, otherwise uninhabited islands, the moral implications of visiting the Maldives have been called into question following the downfall of Mr Nasheed,” Smith wrote for the paper.
“Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused the new government of ordering police to violently suppress demonstrations.”
With a small band of protesters handing leaflets to reporters outside claiming that President Mohamed Waheed Hassan was working to undermine the country’s young democracy, the Telegraph reported that Gafoor saw this as a clear indication that human rights were being respected in the country.
“The fact that there are leaflets being handed to you outside shows how open we are,” he was reported as saying.
Beyond addressing the country’s political upheaval, the newly appointed tourism minister said that he hoped to continue to try to open up the country to emerging markets like China, whilst also pursuing more sustainable and community-based tourism projects.
“He [Gafoor] also sought to reassure visitors that the islands’ spas – briefly threatened with closure under President Nasheed, following pressure from Islamist groups – would remain open, and said that no moves to restrict the sale of alcohol in holiday resorts would be considered,” the newspaper added.
The minister also hit out at a travel advisory issued by the UK-based NGO Friends of Maldives. According to the NGO, while the advisory aims to encourage travellers to continue holidaying in the Maldives, it does ask travellers to reconsider staying at a small number of resort properties that it alleges are directly involved in the controversial transfer of power to President Waheed last month.
“Mr Gafoor said he would not recognise the Friends of Maldives campaign and was bullish about the impact that recent negative publicity would have on visitor numbers. He said that a record one million holidaymakers were expected to visit the Maldives this year, including around 100,000 Britons,” the report added.