Several resort managers have warned that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s call in the Financial Times (FT) for a boycott on tourism risked aggravating an already unstable economic situation in the country, given the country’s near-total dependence on tourism.
Speaking to the FT, Nasheed urged potential visitors to make other plans and cancel existing bookings.
“I’d say to anyone who has booked a holiday to the Maldives: cancel it. And to anyone who is thinking of booking one: please don’t bankroll an illegitimate government,” Nasheed told the publication.
Minivan News attempted to clarify the extent of Nasheed’s proposed boycott at a recent Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally, however he was not commenting further on the subject. The Party’s Spokesperson, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, said the party was keen to encourage “ethical tourism”.
“The impact [of a boycott] would depend on how many people heed the call,” said one resort manager.
“The call for a boycott as such will perhaps not have too much of an impact for our clients. They will ask questions, but they will not let it stop them from booking, if they hear about it all. The February 7 events also were not registered as potentially dangerous by too many of them,” the manager said.
“Of course if, say, [airport developer] GMR staff joined a boycott movement, [seaplane operator] TMA staff start striking, maybe even resort staff join in activities and guests are actually negatively confronted with some of these issues, bad news will spread rather fast and the impact might be drastic,” he warned.
“It feels to me as something which might rather aggravate the situation in a country, which is already struggling with its economy, credibility and security, and where so many of its people are fully dependent on tourism.”
Another resort manager warned that while such a statement would negatively affect tourism, “more so the local Maldivian with reduced hospitality workers service charges, local shops, tour operators and the local suppliers.”
“One would hope that former President Nasheed would take an interdependent viewpoint rather than reverting to this unhelpful strategy,” the manager suggested.
“This will hurt the locals more than the current government. Whilst I understand that the MDP would like new elections, I believe this is not the way forward.”
A third manager warned that the boycott risked undermining support for Nasheed within the tourism industry, which employs many MDP members, and handed the ruling coalition a reason to blame the former President for the country’s dire economic situation.
One resort owner, quoted in the FT’s article, said he supported the boycott “as the industry was partly responsible for the overthrow of Mr Nasheed.”
“Resort owners have financed and backed the new regime, and we can’t carry on as if its business as usual. A boycott will hurt me personally a lot in the short term, but it’s necessary in the long term,” said Ali Shiyam, Director of AAA resorts.
Resorts in the Maldives have previously expressed concern about the potential increase in T-GST to 12 percent, among several measures the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said are urgently needed to offset the Maldives’ spiraling budget deficit. Due to ongoing contracts with overseas tour operators, any sudden increases in TGST would have to be absorbed by the resorts, several stated.