The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) is considering offering to support New7Wonders to promote the Maldives in the competition, following cabinet’s decision to withdraw the country’s entry.
Announcing the decision last Wednesday May 18, State Minister for Tourism Thoyyib Mohamed said the Maldives was withdrawing from the competition “because of the unexpected demands for large sums of money from the New7Wonders organisers. We no longer feel that continued participation is in the economic interests of the Maldives.”
Sponsorship packages and funding of New7Wonders’ ‘World Tour’ event would have cost the Maldives upwards of US$500,000, tourism authorities estimated, not including the millions of dollars in licensing arrangements solicited from local airlines and telecom providers.
In an opinion column for Minivan News this week, New7Wonders’ Head of Communication Eamonn Fitzgerald emphasised that Maldives was still in the competition, “because the authority to withdraw a participant from the campaign is a decision for New7Wonders alone, not for any government agency.”
Secretary General of MATATO, Maleeh Jamal, said the association had been in contact with New7Wonders and was considering working on the event in the government’s stead.
The studies offered by New7Wonders promised an “enormous return on investment”, Jamal suggested.
“I think US$500,000 for such an award would be quickly recovered. Although the money was a concern, we had a fair chance of winning,” he said. “A lot of competing destinations, such as Australia and South Africa, are taking this competition very seriously.”
Sri Lanka had recently spent millions of dollars bidding to host the Commonwealth Games, he noted, as well as hosting a film festival.
“I think a lot of these awards are, as a matter of fact, marketing tools. Not many people are going to go into detail as to whether the competition is democratic. What is important is how it can benefit the destination.”
Asked whether he predicted that MATATO would be able to negotiate a discount from New7Wonders following the government’s withdrawal, Jamal said the association had not yet discussed financial matters with the organisation.
“Some of our members have indicated that they would be willing to contribute financially and offer other support. The executive will meet and discuss it this week and decide whether to continue or discontinue,” he said.
Meanwhile Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), Mohamed ‘Sim’ Ibrahim, said he had “no idea about New7Wonders, beyond that it has been going on for some time.”
“It sounds like a gimmick. I understood there was a lot of money involved,” he said.
“MATI will not support it financially. Like any other business people will have to judge if its worth it. We were never consulted on the matter and were never party to this – we like to keep away from things we don’t know about.“