Tourism Minister holds London press conference to reassure travellers

While the Maldives Tourism Minister hosted a press conference in London to soothe the fears of the tourism industry over the ongoing political instability in the Maldives, opposition activists distributed leaflets outside.

Former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK Dr Farahanaz Faisal distributed leaflets highlighting police brutality in the crackdown on demonstrators on February 8, while the Friends of Maldives NGO distributed its travel advisory highlighting the involvement of several politicians and resort owners in the change of government on February 7.

Monday’s professionally managed event was attended by 25 journalists from a host of prominent UK travel publications.

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) recently appointed Rooster Creative Public Relations Ltd as its official PR agent in the UK. MMPRC Acting Managing Director Mohamed Adam explained this decision.

“The purpose of having a full time PR and Marketing agency is to overcome the image that is continuously spoiling in the UK market due to the current political turbulence,” Adam said.

Adam’s aims were stymied somewhat by the presence of former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK Dr Farahanaz Faisal and the former Deputy High Commissioner, and brother of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, Naushad Waheed.

MDP supporters Farahanaz and Naushad took the opportunity to distribute leaflets focussing on police brutality in the Maldives. The leaflet described the Maldives as undergoing “one of the most painful and brutal periods of its history”.

Business as usual?

Despite the demonstrations outside, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor remained upbeat about the prospects of the Maldives tourism industry. The minister told Travel Weekly that he was expecting one million tourists to visit the country in 2012, breaking previous records.

He spoke of having visited tour operators during his trip who are eager to launch charter flights to the Maldives and begin new projects.

Referring to the demonstrations, he said, “The press conference was not affected by that. The journalists did not seem bothered. The press conference was a success.”

Former Tourism MinisterDr Mariyam Zulfa has expressed confidence in the sector’s durability, saying, “I don’t think that the political situation is actually affecting the tourism industry as such because Maldives is a well-established destination.”

This current government’s veneer of confidence, however, is belied by the hiring of the professional PR group to protect its image and by reports that bookings were down six percent  in February, according to Travel Weekly.

Speaking with Minivan this week, Dr Zulfa made clear the importance the MDP attributes to protecting 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. “It’s not in our agenda to affect the traveller’s decision to choose Maldives as a destination at all.”

“But I think the tourist industry has a responsibility to provide correct information about Maldivian life in general.”

The awareness-raising efforts of the government’s opponents, indeed, do not appear to be registering with those travelling to the Maldives at present, supporting the views of Tourism Ministers past and present.

Asking the opinions of tourists at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport yesterday, the most common response was a vague notion that the Maldives had been in the news recently, without any specific details being recalled.

This was perhaps typified by the response of a couple from the UK who were asked how they felt about what was happening in the Maldives at the moment: “What is happening?” came the response.

Travel advisory

Also outside the press conference was David Hardingham, founder of Friends of Maldives (FOM), who distributed a second set of leaflets publicising his group’s travel advisory.

FOM is a UK based NGO focusing on the protection of human rights, the promotion of social justice and democracy in the Maldives.

The content of the FOM leaflet was interpreted by the Maldivian media outlet Sun Online as claiming that the Maldives was an unsafe travel destination. Newspaper Haveeru also reported that the NGO was advocating a “tourism boycott”.

Referring to Sun’s article Hardingham said, “Responsible journalism involves getting both sides of the story – so we were disappointed not to be asked by Sun for our views as their article is one sided, has factual errors and is somewhat misleading – however it’s not entirely surprising as its owners are known to be supportive of the recent coup.”

Hardingham forwarded the leaflet distributed by the NGO (page one, two), which lists resorts and businesses owned by Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group, and Bandos Island Resort and Spa owned by Vice-President designate Waheed Deen, and urges “responsible” travellers to avoid these resorts specifically.

“The current political turmoil in the Maldives has deterred people from visiting the islands. Friends of Maldives urges tourists to continue to visit Maldives, as tourism is the mainstay of the economy. We feel the situation is not so bad, as the airport and resort islands are not linked to any population centres,” the leaflet notes.

The leaflet goes on to recommend the travel advice of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which currently has no restrictions in its Maldives travel notice.

The FOM leaflet continues to briefly outline recent events in the Maldives before asking that potential tourists “consider the idea of being a responsible traveller” by avoiding resorts that are allegedly involved in “the subversion of democracy, and human rights abuses in the Maldives”.


20 thoughts on “Tourism Minister holds London press conference to reassure travellers”

  1. Traveler's with any morality or virtuous conduct must avoid the resorts operated by the Resorts owners who bought and paid to over throw the democratically elected government of Maldives on 7 February 2012 and they are:

    Sultan Thasmeen Resorts.
    Bandos Waheedheen Resorts.
    Villa Gasim Resorts.
    Conrad or Crown company Saleem Resorts.

    While you suntan in these resorts with you favorite drink in hand or dancing under the stars, please know our brothers and sisters are being beaten and we are literally Bleeding on the streets of Maldives.

  2. With the resignation of Mohamed Nasheed, and the fall of MDP from power, MDP seems more than determined to inflict the maximum damage to Maldives and its citizens and to the tourism sector, well aware that any calls for boycott of any Maldivian tourist resorts would mean a loss of revenue to the country and ultimately a great loss for the citizens of Maldives.

    Maldivians must realise that the damage would be more to Maldivian citizens rather than Buruma Gasim when idiots like Hardingham call for boycott of Maldivain resorts.

    Will it not be the Maldivian resort workers who will lose income when the resorts they are working in are boycotted ? Will it not be the govt of Maldives that will lose tourism revenue that could potentially be used to provide better services to the Maldivian people ?

    If MDP truly wished prosperity for Maldives then they would not be doing these things such as calling for boycotts of Maldives resorts.

    Politics is politics, but leave the Maldivian tourism industry out of your quest for power.

  3. I don't think this campaign will do any good to MDP or it's cause. But it would rather buy hatred from those Mladivians working in these resorts and those local and overseas tour operators who depend on these resorts for their daily bread or monthly income. Why can't MDP personnel do something wiser and more mature? Where are those intellectuals in MDP? Why not come out with a better strategy? Leaflets with few names on it will make these resorts more popular as every publicity is a good publicity. If you want every traveller to be so responsible, then David Hardingham and his friends have a big job to do going around creating awareness. Today travelers are looking for value added products and services. They do not deal with the owners. They deal with front line staff who are not bothered about dirty politics. Hospitality industry workers are not politicians. And the market segments that Maldives target are least bothered about politics. So don't waste your time and use your brains to find out better ways to come to power again. Or adapt more professional means and methods.

  4. Some Resort Owners have used the wealth gained, using resources of Maldives, to finance a change of a democratically elected government without an election/vote. They have violated the right of every Maldivian to elect a Government throughout a vote! They cannot be allowed to get away with it!

  5. This is getting way above politics now. MDP wants to destroy the country if they cannot be in Power.

    This was no coup d'etat. If this was a coup this is what is called a constitutional coup. This is not illegal.

    I am ashamed that there are Maldivians who are calling for boycotts of Maldivian resorts just because they lose all the thousands of dollars they were getting under the Nasheed Regime.
    What kind of people would chose money over their country?

    Are these people not the same as the Police whom they accuse of " money, money"? Yes they are the same. They are selling their country for the amount of money they make under the Nasheed regime.
    This is treason in fact and they could be charged under the act of treason as defined as "anyone who seriously injure their country".

    This could be economical too.

  6. @ Abdulla Gazee Lover "Traveler’s with any morality or virtuous conduct...while you suntan in these resorts with you favorite drink in hand or dancing under the stars, please know our brothers and sisters are being beaten and we are literally Bleeding on the streets of Maldives."
    Once again we Maldivians can't have it both ways, one minute we are asking foreigners to stay out of our political business, the next minute we are asking them to boycott resorts to support us-what is it to be then, we want help when it suits us, but the rest of the time butt out non-Maldivians?????

  7. Wonder if people read the article thoroughly before commenting.MDP is NOT calling for a TOURISM BOYCOTT.But
    the tourists MUST KNOW the people alleged to have CONTRIBUTED to the COUP.

    Even if the MDP doesn't do it, I'll do whatever I can to expose them "If they answer not to thy call walk alone." -Rabindranath Tagore-

  8. @jameel Care to elaborate how its not a coup? or more interestingly a 'constitutional coup'???

    And what kind of people would chose money over their country? We see them in abundance dont we? Gasim Ibrahim as a good example id assume, who was instrumental in bringing about the so called 'constitutional coup'!

  9. @citizen

    You write about the MDP and others “determined to inflict maximum damage to Maldives...”

    The so-called “damage” is unlikely to be serious enough for people to lose their jobs even though the affected resorts will lose some of their profits, and might even run at a loss for some time. There are many other resorts in the Maldives and there is a shortage of people to work in these resorts. So what you claim is unlikely, and it remains to be seen if there will be any effect. It is in fact a very considerate way of making a protest and nothing like a boycott of the Maldives.

    HOWEVER you have failed to even mention or complain about the several resort owners who have already done damage to all of the Maldives, including their tourism industry.

    They have caused irreparable harm to the tourist industry by actively encouraging intolerance and extremism in the Maldives. In doing this, they have damaged the good reputation Maldives enjoyed as a tolerant and welcoming country.

    They have damaged a growing democracy by involving themselves in treason along with police that took part in the mutiny. In doing this, they have destroyed the hopes and reputations of the majority of loyal police officers who wanted the police to be an independent institution.

    They have damaged their own reputation as supporters of human rights by aligning themselves with people who have been involved in torture and abuse of human rights. In doing this, they have destroyed most of the goodwill they have built up from the good they have done, and I must say they have done a lot of good.

    Just look at the number of resort owners in parliament and the many, many conflicts of interest they are involved in.

    It is time to end this illusion that “others” or “boycotts” are responsible for bringing politics into tourism, or for “damaging” tourism. We have many resort owners who are quite capable of doing this on their own.

  10. WAS IT A COUP??
    On 6th Feb Night at artificial beach Ithihad was holding a demonstartion and at one corner MDP was also holding their demonstartion. Riot Police was on standby in between the groups.
    At About 11 Riot Police was moved and army came in riot gear. In a little while the army too left the scene. While something was devoloping Nasheed, Def Minister, Foreign Minister with one MDP MP moved to army head quarters. Aparently all the comand was coming direct from comander in chief.

    When both police and army left the demonstration site all of a sudden fighting erupted and stones were thrown from both side.

    What was not known to most of the outsiders was commander in chief had a master plan to bring chaos to the capital city. He will then declare emmergency law and arrest all the judges.He will take full charge of the entire system. Unfortunately some sr members of the police and army realize what was going on.
    Some snr officer refuse to take direct comands from Nasheed. By dawn all the plans of Nasheed has backfired and that was the point where ‘The People” “The police joined hand in hand and raised one voice.
    God is great … had Nasheed’s plan worked there would have been bloodshed in our country.

    When Nasheed came out to meet thousands of people in the republic sq he almost wet his pants he was so scared and all he could do was to add fuel to the angry crown. That was the turning point when he lost all control. He was so scared and all he could was to resign.

    When kerafaa Naseem and Thalath starts to open their mouth truth will prevail. Nasheed is good at making stunts to surprise “The People” but never have a plan “B” and it back fires. Take Mass resignation of cabinet as an example.

  11. Who and what ever thinks. I know the people who are siding with the COUP,Government that's because they get benefit from the regime of 1978 to 2008 and there is no any other reason who are against MDP Government. Now present Government is not other than GOLHA Gayyoom's Government and Waheed is just to show to people and GOLHA is running the show. Day-by-day everything will come to surface, now Golha young brothers vagu anbi Hussein Maniku Dhonmaniku is also a State Minister....

  12. 786!

    My teacher, my son today was jubilant. He pointed out to me that here was a very good example of ….


    Looks like President Nasheed is no longer in control of his party. He is a good man, obviously his ideals has been hijacked by a band within MDP. Their hope it would seem is to bankrupt Maldives, so attack tourism.

    The wisdom seems to be to paralyse the Govt, push the country to financial ruin and make the country ungovernable until an election 2013. Their hope is that people would be faced with so much hardship that they would vote in hordes to give MDP a landslide victory. They might actually want scheduled elections in 2013, hoping to give the Govt enough rope to hang themselves once and for all.

    This might work.

    However,“Violence now” strategy might also misfire with the young, educated and dynamic leaders deciding enough is enough and MDP splinters into those rough and tumble, loud, foul- mouthed politicos on the one hand and the educated young professionals on the other - breaking off to form another party.

    What a shame that would be. The world has many examples of this. We need to only look at the Sri Lankan LTTE terrorists & their splintering into thugs lead by Prabakharan and Brainy elite lead by Uma Maheswaran. What a tragedy it was to their land leading to 30 years of bloodletting & strife.

    History would tell.

  13. @Citizen
    Which is more sacred - democracy, politics, jobs or business.

    Anni may not be as refined n presidential enough, but during his presidency, no one can and should deny he did more for democracy, truth and fairness (be it as harsh his actions may have been) than Maumoon ever did so much as to lift a finger in 30 years for the concerns and causes fought for in 3 short year.

    The so called religious clerics who are now so prominent and parading in the forefront of politics today is able to do so only because of the reform movement and that came about with the demise of Maumoon's presidency. their mouths are no longer sealed and lip service required in how people choose to practice religion. But then again, religion today has lost its respect the moment it became politicized.

    there may have been corruption in Anni
    s government, but it is yet to be proven in courts. But the turning point was to do with a fight to reform judiciary. As a "citizen" i suppose you should harbor some feelings towards the innocent verdicts of Red wave saleem and Jangiya nazim immediately following a week or change of government. And most of all the abolishing of presidential commission to investigate former regime's corruption and the case that was filed against yaameen.

  14. Anni and Maumoon no difference. Infact Anni is more corrrupt than Maumoon. What Maumoon did in 30 years Anni was able to do within 3 years. Corrupt corrupt corrupt


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