The last resort: Nasheed calls for tourism boycott

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called for a tourism boycott of the Maldives, urging potential visitors to make other plans and to 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,” Mohamed Nasheed told the UK’s Financial Times (FT) newspaper while in New York last week.

Nasheed also told the publication that the country was at risk of ‘talibanisation’.

The former president resigned from office in February under circumstances he alleges amounted to a coup. His resignation has been followed by months of street demonstrations by his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the country’s largest political party.

Nasheed was in the United States to speak with government officials as well as receive an award for achievements through the practice of non violent action.

“This is the most effective form of non-violent pressure,” MDP Spokesperson Hamed Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News, of the boycott.

“This is a sign that the MDP have gotten very serious. This is the last resort,” said Ghafoor.

The tourism industry is by far the country’s largest sector at US$2-3 billion per year, and is responsible for 70-80 percent of all foreign exchange receipts.

Resorts owned by those local businessmen the MDP has accused of funding the change of power have been previously targeted by a ‘selective boycott’, the so-called ‘Maldives Travel Advisory’.

However the MDP has disavowed any association with the advisory, and the site went down last week and can no longer be accessed.

The advisory rated all of the country’s resorts on a traffic light system, ranging from ‘green’ which urged tourists to visit, to ‘red’ – ‘those to avoid’.

Seeking the to counter the negative publicity, the government entered into a deal with global PR firm Ruder Finn, reportedly paying the company US$150,000 a month to highlight the country’s appeal as a tourist destination.

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) hopes to welcome over one million tourists to the country in 2012, however the corporation’s most recent figures showed that tourist arrivals had dropped 1.4 percent compared to the same period last year.

According to figures from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), while South Asia was the second fastest growing market reporting 14 percent year-on-year growth in March in terms of visitor volume, the Maldives was the only destination to record a decline (five percent).

Boycott timing

Throughout the recent political turmoil, the tourism industry has remained relatively sacrosanct with all sides acknowledging the importance of the industry to the Maldives.

In March, former Minister of Tourism and MDP party member Dr Mariyam Zulfa told Minivan News that despite having evidence that certain resort owners were involved in a coup, the MDP would never seek to damage the tourism industry.

“It has never been the MDPs intention and it will never be the MDPs intention to obstruct the progress that we have made in the tourism industry,” said Zulfa.

Today, Zulfa said that Nasheed’s comments were a “very practical suggestion” in response to the MDP’s concerns that the new government was becoming “entrenched”.

In his interview with the FT, Nasheed said that, “if there isn’t an election soon, I fear there won’t be one at all”.

Zulfa said that although the party’s National Council had yet to decide to officially call for a total boycott, Nasheed’s comments were “indicative of policy direction” which she felt was widely supported within the party’s ranks.

The call for a tourism boycott comes at a time when occupancy rates are already down at many resorts, with reports emerging that certain resorts have not paid staff for up to six months, and at a time when economic turmoil and plunging investor confidence has followed the country’s political unrest.

The government has claimed it is undertaking an austerity drive to slash spending in its departments by 15 percent in an attempt to cut Rf 2 billion (US$130 million) from the anticipated Rf 9 billion (US$584 million) budget deficit this year – a massive 27 percent of GDP.

This huge deficit has sparked concern from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has predicted the dwindling of foreign reserves and the impoverishment of the nation if government spending is not curtailed.

Government response and impact

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza described Nasheed’s comments as “ridiculous” and “absurd”, and not befitting of someone who enjoys the status and privileges of a former president.

Riza argued that Nasheed had contradicted himself in his interview with the Financial Times, claiming that the absence of foreign tourists would play into the very hands of the Islamic hardliners he accused of taking over the government.

“If there are and hardliners, and fundamentalists, they would love a tourism boycott,” Riza said.

Asked about the likely impact of a boycott, Riza was adamant that the industry would be fine.

“We don’t see any change. We don’t think that the international community takes Nasheed seriously,” he said.

Riza added that the government would continue to respect Nasheed’s freedom of speech. He was confident that tour operators would be able to make their own assessments and that they understood the “true situation”.

Parties in the ruling coalition have meanwhile voted to establish a committee to investigate Nasheed’s alleged wrongdoings while in power, while Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer meanwhile told local media last week that he was confident that Nasheed would be jailed before the next elections.

Mauroof Zakir, Secretary General of the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) said that alongside low occupancy rates and the industry’s low season, the boycott would be bad news for the industry’s workers.

“We are already seeing a higher number of terminations and unfair dismissals. We had 48 cases in June alone”, said Zakir.

“With the occupancy so low, the workers also receive less as a service charge and so they are increasingly demanding extra rights,” he continued.

“Political parties need to come to an understanding. They are creating more challenges for their own benefit. They have to negotiate rather than call for negative approaches.”

Minivan News was awaiting response from several resort managers to the news at time of press. One suggested that the move could force tour operators to pay higher premiums for the Maldives, absolving them from the need to be selective as to where they were sending guests and undermining the apparent purpose of the boycott.

Furthermore, the resort owner continued, the boycott risked undermining support for the MDP within the tourism industry, while giving the government a reason to blame the party for its dire economic situation.

However, another 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.

Zulfa meanwhile said she hoped that a boycott would get the attention of the international community, and expressed desire for an EU travel directive in particular.

“We would like to create more impact and we would like people to have the right information,” she said.

“The government’s PR has been promoting the image of a country in which there are no problems, at a time when an immense crime has been committed against the people of the Maldives.”

The newly reformed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) has meanwhile begun its investigations into the events surrounding the transfer of power and is expected to have completed its investigations by the end of July.

Ghafoor said that while the party respected the work of the commission, it had concerns about the level of protection afforded to witnesses.

“How can you rely on the CNI? Even when I go into the CNI, I know I am having my photograph taken – there is no witness protection,” said Ghafoor.

“We do not want to put all our eggs in one basket.”


52 thoughts on “The last resort: Nasheed calls for tourism boycott”

  1. Tourism Boycott would hurt MDP most because MDP gets its support from small businesses and grass roots, which are dependent on tourism (controlled by the big guys)

    Also in Maldives economic contest, this is like pushing the nuclear button.

  2. I have heard that USA debts increases $50000 every second over 15 trillion ~

  3. Murder and violence on the streets, police brutality, a tourism boycott, legitimacy of the government under investigation - we need fresh elections and peace.

  4. Thank you Mr. President! You have been a true servant of this Nation and now you are hell bent on taking it down with you.

    What a great way to thank your electorate!

  5. How short sighted and stupid. This will not hurt the government of the Maldives but it will HURT all the families who have someone working in the tourist sector. The Chinese and Russian visitors will not take notice of any call for boycott. Tips and gratuities will drop causing hardship amongst the wonderful people that work there.

    Certain people need to grow up - they are behaving like children in playgrounds.

  6. this is the only way.. looking at comments from the likes of tsk tsk which are surely to come soon.. you can see the mindset of the ignorant community here in Maldives... high time the tourists taught a lesson to the local population... otherwise these barbarians will never learn..

  7. we need fresh elections and peace. other wise these people will not think about the ordinary ppl. the present illegal government is backed by tourist resort owners so boycott is ok for us.then only we can get an early election

  8. A toothless and asinine threat.

    He should wait until 2013 and refrain from unrealistic short term ambitions of scuppering the national economy while and because it is under the watch of an administration that does not have him at the helm.

    Grow up Nasheed.

    And grow up Minivannews.

    Enough quixotic schemes for economic blackmail.

    Foolish as they may be they betray intent to exacerbate extant social rifts.

    Do not take your continued functioning while flouting laws, spouting propaganda and inciting hate for granted.

    Your existence is indicative of the ample tolerance of the ordinary citizen but not the inexhaustible supply thereof. Nor the lack of legal channels that will indulge our concerns - despite Nasheeds persistent efforts to have them dismantled which in turn precipitated his political demise.

    You have been warned.

  9. You crazy Anni. Tourism being the bread and butter for the whole economy, its the local people who'll suffer the most.

    If you are a person for the people, you will have some conscience before going about boycotting tourism in Maldives.

    Most stupid thing Anni has done so far. Really a shame, that he sometimes thinks from his butt.

  10. It is ridiculous to call for a boycott of the tourism industry! The tourism industry is the country's biggest source of income and a large proportion of the workforce is dependent on this industry. The country's honest workforce who do not stand to benefit whatever the party in power, a workforce who's livelihood is derived from this industry. The already fragile economy cannot take a further beating, perhaps it is time to look beyond politics and focus on the 'bigger picture' that is the survival of the country's economy. My laymen's view is that politicians would serve us well to distance politics as much as practically possible from the economy. The economy is a reflection of our workforce, not just a particular government. It is short sighted and undemocratic to call for an action that will affect all segments of the workforce. Undemocratic because the call I suspect, is to compel those not taking an active stand to do so. However is it democratic to compel people by making them feel the pinch? 'Democratically thinking' should it not be left upto the individual? Governments change and evidently in various ways, but the economy must endure; it will not be in the interest of any Maldivian, politician or not for the Maldives to be classified a bankrupted, failed state.

  11. A boycott is the best thing that could happen. I will certainly not be returning to the unstable, backward Maldives.

  12. @tsk tsk

    You condemn Nasheed for his "threats" and make threats of your own! Hypocrite!

  13. There is even no need to call for a boycott : the junta themselves create enough 'reasons' for tourists to stay out of the country :
    1. ridiculous high prices for too many things, now ADC at airport - putting the burden of the state coffers on the tourists.
    2. the daily increase of crime rates, 6 murders after the coup, brutal violence on the roads, youtube is filled with
    3. the fact that a junta rules the country
    4. the fear of foreigners for extremists and their daily exposure (lustful music, sharia, kids not singing in schools, women as 2nd ranks citizens, brutalising women in protest, sexual abuse of women
    5. saying "Islam and democracy cannot go together
    6. all threats to foreigners, killing and robbing
    and on and on and on, every day again something new to keep tourists out of Maldives.
    The country was doing very well under Nasheed, now is going down to the hell.

  14. I am so utterly ashamed that I voted for this mad man in 2008. It was justifable back then because of Gayoom and his cronies.

  15. If someone was shot dead during the coup, the international world would have imposed sanctions against the new government.

    One of the sanctions would be not allowing their citizens to visit Maldives.

    What president Anni said doesn't sound good especially as the country is broke, but in realty the move he has taken is actually acceptable by most...

    At the end of the day, the common man must suffer, sacrifice to make a better future... Zimbabwe people are suffering over sanctions, North koreans are eating grass instead of vegetables....its a long list. Anni just spit out words that a few countries wanted to, but got scared!...

  16. I am no MDP supporter but I think the current government is in power through questionable events. Therefore I supported the claim from Nasheed that there was a "coup" on 7 Feb.

    However as a citizen of Maldives and I am vehemently against this call for a boycott of Maldives. This is ridiculous! How can you even claim to have the best interests at heart when you know how damaging such a statement can be, especially coming from someone like Nasheed who is a darling of the Western media and social circles?

    It's one thing when the MDP supporters called out to boycott resorts whose owners are implicated in the coup (even that is also over the line in one regard) - but a complete boycott of the entire industry of Maldives, the lifeblood of its citizens. Oh how you have fallen. I am saddened today, that I had so much hopes in you Mr. Nasheed.

    I am even more sad when I think about how bleak our future looks.

  17. This is the way to go. Join others and call for a boycott. Close these bank rolling junta leaders

  18. ....another cute comment from tsk tsk! turned Baaghee high on an equally quixotic status quo.

    Isn't it troubling when the magic wand comes out to "change" tourism to expand the last tropical destination right to the Maldives grassroots.

    You obviously have no idea what the electorate expect from democracy!

  19. I fully support the sanctions and boycotting of resorts. People need to stand up for their rights and sacrifice. These rich resort owners wont budge otherwise unless the people put pressure to them.

    I hope the locals and the foreign media would spread the news about the coup Taliban government and their atrocities and their anti democratic agenda.

    Without democracy Maldives is Hell on earth, everyday people are facing arbitrary arrest, and police brutality and our freedom of expression is suppressed by a new kind of violence, the Taliban government send in their mafia mob to knife and beat up people who oppose this coup led illegal government.

  20. I think people who are rubbishing the tourism boycott ought to read the history of South Africa. Ultimately it was sanctions against the regime that brought an end to apartheid. Of course the common black South African suffered but in the end I don't hear anyone complaining about it. There is no way we can have freedom and democracy in the Maldivs without getting this this crooks to understand that people power will prevail. Those Junta leaders with millions in their pockets - hit them where it hurts. I have family working in the tourism industry and we are worried about our jobs, but in the end, if it is short term sacrifice for the greater good, then so be it.

  21. @tsk tsk
    How dare you threaten freedom of expression! What are you exactly warning here? More police brutality? More trumped up charges to go in front of your corrupt uneducated judicary, more gagging and silencing of the ordinary person?

    Has it occurred to you that the proposed boycott was caused by your selfish illegal coup d'tat in February that has now ruined this country, or are you permanently living in the blame culture in your selfish world!!

  22. Can you have a "true" paradise with all the madness and the mayhem in the wake of the coup d'tat?
    Democracy, basic human rights and the right to vote is more important for the country then anything else. Stability is more important then money. I support this even if my own job is at risk.

  23. No one wanted to go to Fiji until democracy and elections were returned to the nation. Now they are doing very well, again. It seems there is real confusion here in the Maldives and until there is stability and the right to vote, we will consider safer, calmer options for our customers.

  24. There has to be pain to save the country from the unelected coup regime and brutal dictatorship. This is the beginning of the end to save our country from the old dictatorship. All the ngative comments on this page come from the coup regime, yet again drowning the common man and woman. We have to fight to save our nation. Tourists have to know that we have been robbed from our rights to vote and the corruption of the current dictatorship.

  25. We want a very successful tourism sector too, but not at the expense of democracy and our vote!!! Some things are more important then money.

  26. oh for gods sake will somebody give tsk tsk some cash! call gasim, maybe he can help.

  27. Nasheed and MDP stepped over the line with this boycott campaign. I do not support the current illegitimate government but what difference does where the tourism money go make if Nasheed was the president. Bankrupting the country in a tantrum is not the way to react to the coup. You are punishing the people of the Maldives for the actions of the few coup leaders.

  28. @tsk tsk on Mon, 2nd Jul 2012 6:55 PM

    "A toothless and asinine threat."

    Oh dear, the old boy has lost his mantle. The only thing "asinine" is coming out of your own arse, my dear fellow. Just take a look.

    There is no one at the helm of this country. It's a rudderless ship wandering into the storms gathering on the horizon. A pirate crew is haphazardly trying to navigate it, and the task at hand is well beyond their capabilities!

    Those who pirated the ship thought that they had struck gold and could enjoy their bounty. Alas, four months on, economic reality has struck them in the face and much more is on the way to strike them! Be warned!

  29. Ruining the economy will only make life even more difficult for Maldivians.

  30. I seem to be quite popular with the MDP set these days.

    Anyhoo I have never and will never plan to use quixotic in a sentence. Funny though. Although my doppelganger is off the mark.

    I think the focus on pretentious prose rather than content is more Yaamyn's schtick than mine.

    As for Nasheed and 3A Shiyam's calls for a boycott which coincidentally was reported in FT by MDP's own paid lapdog Ajay Makan, I don't think its worth bothering about. Nasheed comes off like a grumpy baby by doing this and the rest of the world could care less.

    As for Mariya's Mega Maldives it just seems to be ever expanding destinations.

  31. I don't want to live in Maldives, cox coup government couldn't controll gangs in this country people are scared to walk on the road alone and number of Islamic extremism increasing rate is growing up very fast.

  32. 60% of my family income is from tourism industry yet I support the boycott willing to sacrifice for the sake of bringing democracy to Maldives. We need democracy in this country, freedom of expression without fear of arrest and persecution. Maldives is hell on earth without democracy.

    Tourists please do not come to Maldives, by doing so you are financing a radical Taliban government who is against anything Western; the current coup led government is facilitating drug trade to Europe. The Islamic radicals in Maldives are laundering Afghan drug money.

  33. Nasheed is crazy. All these MDP people are crazy. If they are not in power, then they want us Maldivians to Starve ?

    Tourism is the lifeblood of our nation. It pays our civil servants salaries (through Tourism taxes), it provides our workforce jobs, it feeds our tourist workers families. Three years in Maldivian presidency hasn't he learned that ?

    Calling on the international community to boycott all Maldivian resorts is like shooting ALL the Maldivian people in the face. Anni is determined to bring the maximum damage to the Maldivian people, even the people who voted for him. And why? Just because he fell into a mud puddle, does he want to drag all of Maldives along with him ? When tourism industry falls, it will be the 40,000 MDP members who will suffer most.

    WHy is the Western world listening to the rantings of a madman hell bent on bringing nothing but damage and losses to the Maldivian people ? And giving him awards too ?

    Does the Western world want Maldives economy to collapse as Anni is pleading for them to assist him in doing so ?

    How can Anni face the Maldivian people now, after these stupid stupid rantings ? Whats he going to say.. "Hey I did call for the total destruction of our tourism industry, but i had angelic intentions at heart, as long as i am president Tourism Industry will be fine, but if anyone else is in Maldives presidency then im going to do everything to destroy the Maldivian tourism industry ? Will you guys please vote for me ! OR else ! You know how much damage im gonna cause ! "

    Dr.Zulfa too is mad. She was the Tourism Minister now, working three years on developing our tourism industry. Now she is calling to destroy the very tourism industry she has helped to prosper and grow. It seems associating with MDP will make anyone go mad.

  34. ...earlier comment is right, the coup govt. has made us the old Fiji. Democracy and peace is more important for the long term in this country. I support this botcott too. Who wants their children to grow up in a illegal dictatorship!!

  35. Most of you guys are looking at the picture through the eyes of those baghees.

    Care for the country once at least!

    Moreover bagees have to taste that juice. We cannot t afford to change governments like this ten times a year.

  36. I live in a Western country, and tell all my friends not to visit the Maldives. Nasheed tells people that the country is at 'risk' of talibisation and I tell my friends that it is already run by people from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.


  37. this is crazy and absurd.....

    @ Anni, i used to believe in you. now i know you lost your senses of right or wrong and you would do anything to get your power back. you should have done so many things different when you had the chance and stop whining now and wait for the elections.

    @ Zulfa: your comments once more are prove that you have been the worst tourism minister ever. please move on into some other field and refrain from making comments about the tourism.

  38. Not a good move from Nasheed. Baagee Waheed ,Gasim , Nasheed, Resort owners and Kuda Abdullah will not suffer since they are political Elites and have neumerous other business and investments in this Country and other countries. Unfortunately common people especially those who work in Tourism will suffer most.
    I think politically Kuda Abdullah and his Gang will benefit from this action. I still see his evil laugh.

  39. This is simply brilliant and sad. Watching a nation get destroyed from within.

    Brilliant : Because Maldivians need to come down from their high horses, riding to heaven and face the reality of the world. If this is the only way, then be it.

    Sad : We cannot afford to risk what is at stake. For this generation, and the ones to come.

  40. This is ridiculously short sighted and retarded, and coming from an MDP supporter..
    this is just going to hurt lower middle class and lower class citizens of this country,

    and this is coming from someone living abroad in a western country

  41. @ tsk tsk have you noticed that your not anonymous any more ? I see some people looking for some cash around here ! 😛

  42. Smart move. Only way to topple this corrupt govt is hit it where it hurts most, in the pocketbook. Cut off Gayoum's money trail.

  43. @Gaad e rasool
    What a crazy retard you are?
    Remember Maumoon had stolen 800 milion dollars from state treasury. His family had well established businesses. So he will be the last one to suffer If there is any negative effect. My estimate is he will not suffer anything.

  44. I thought Anni was better than this...
    but he is very idiotic

  45. I will not be going to the Maldives for my next vacation. Back to Tuna and Caves.

  46. @ Terry Newman
    There are no Caves in Maldives. Better you go to cave and get lost.


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