Additional reporting by Neil Merrett.
Calls for a tourism boycott of the Maldives have exploded across Chinese social media networks, after allegations of discrimination against guests from China at one resort became widely circulated.
On March 1, dismissed Chinese employees of the Beach House Iruveli resort – formerly Waldorf Astoria – posted allegations on the Chinese forum Tianya that guests from the country were receiving inferior treatment to Europeans, despite paying the same prices.
The staff alleged that this discrimination extended to removing kettles from the rooms of Chinese guests, to prevent them making instant noodles in their rooms and thereby forcing them into the resort’s restaurants.
Despite claiming that 90 percent of the resorts guests were Chinese, the resort assumed Chinese guests should be able to speak English and was unwilling to hire Mandarin speakers who were able to communicate with the guests, the dismissed staff alleged.
“We watched our compatriots suffer unfair treatment but could do nothing,” wrote the employees, in Mandarin.
Chinese staff at the resort who voiced concern were dismissed and sent back to China, the staff alleged, and in some cases were made to pay their own airfare out of their owing wages.
One of the staff members began a “revolt”, according to the post, and refused to agree to the terms of his dismissal from the “Human Resources Ministry”, labelling it “unfair treatment”.
The Chinese staff members said they are ultimately forced to resign “after the Ministry of Personnel and Security began 24-hour surveillance, confiscating our phones, blocking our internet and controlling our [communications] with the outside world.
“We were treated like criminals to be monitored, and felt our safety was threatened. We simply could not imagine things would develop to the point where our heart is filled with panic, we tried every way to appeal to the outside world for help.
“Later, with a friend’s help, we called the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka, and Ambassador Hu was able to guarantee our safety,” the staff wrote.
The staff said they were too exhausted by that stage to argue with the deductions on their wages imposed by the Human Resources department, as the just wanted to the experience to “end as soon as possible” and return home.
“We do not want this kind of discrimination, not this unfair treatment. Our Chinese tourists spend money here not to be frowned upon, to be discriminated against as second-class guests. We want fair treatment and truly five-star service.
“For those who discriminate against Chinese guests, I hope you will sincerely apologise to the Chinese people,” the post concluded.
In response to the allegations of the dismissed staff, Beach House Iruveli issued a statement confirming that a group of five Chinese staff members “resigned on their own accord on February 18, 2013.”
“We continue to operate a dedicated staff of Chinese Villa Hosts at the resort who are solely responsible for looking after the specific needs of our Chinese guests. Our resident Chinese staff are happy and fulfilling their duties as per the high standards of the resort and guest expectations,” the statement read.
“The Beach House Iruveli did remove some damaged kettles from rooms as part of routine maintenance due to the fact that these kettles were damaged by guests by cooking food. However, nespresso machines are always available in all rooms as part of full amenities and also dispense hot water to all guests,” stated Haydee Cruz, the resort’s Director of Sales and Marketing.
“The Beach House Iruveli has a policy to allocate a Villa Host to the respective language spoken by the guests. In this regard, we have Chinese Villa Hosts for Chinese speaking guests. We have not received any guest complaints regarding the alleged discrimination from a specific group of former employees relating to a difference of treatment and continue to only receive positive comments and appreciation from our Chinese guests,” Cruz said.
“The Chinese market is very important for us and are always warmly welcomed to the Beach House Iruveli. As a result of the defamatory accusations against The Beach House Iruveli our legal representatives have been engaged,” Cruz added.
By Sunday, the employees’ post had been forward over 91,000 times across the Chinese blogosphere, according to one report from the International Herald Tribune, and sparked calls for a Chinese tourism boycott of the Maldives in Chinese media.
One Bejing-based travel agent specialising in the Maldives told the South China Morning Post that many Chinese tourists had started cancelling their plans to visit the country.
Discriminatory treatment was “very rare” at resorts in the Maldives, the agent explained, however “after the incident, my clients now all make a new request when booking resorts: no discrimination.”
Chinese tourists now dominate tourism statistics in terms of arrivals, accounting for almost a quarter of all visitors to the Maldives in 2012.
Despite the high numbers – more than double the Maldives’ traditional UK market – many resorts regard Chinese guests as relatively ‘low-yield’ due to lower spending on extras such as food and drink, and instead use their numbers to boost occupancy rates during the off season.
A Chinese boycott now would hit the tourism sector in the Maldives just as the industry goes into its off-peak period.
Meanwhile, the sector’s once explosive double-figure growth fell to just 0.7 percent last year, falling from 15.8 percent in 2010 and 9.1 percent in 2011.
The market has also proved very sensitive to political upheaval, and was the first targeted for a ‘reassurance’ mission by the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) following the events of February 2012 and the cancellation of several charter flights.
A few Maldivian travel agencies who work closely with the Chinese market told Minivan News at the time that “quite a lot of Chinese customers are very concerned of this situation. Some of them are hesitant to make reservations now,” said Emy Zheng, a Chinese national working at Villuxa Holidays. She noted that only a few bookings were been cancelled, while others have tried to postpone their holiday.
Government responds to boycott claims
Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb said no formal complaints had been received by Maldivian authorities over alleged discrimination at the country’s resorts.
However, Adheeb asked that in future, any tourists who had such complaints about their treatment file such concerns with the tourism ministry and other relevant authorities rather than through the press and social media.
“We have not received any complaints of discrimination like this, but we do take such incidents seriously,” he said, claiming that the Iruveli allegations appeared to have been raised by disgruntled former resort staff.
“What seems to have happened is that a staff member has been dismissed from this resort and has a lot of hate for the company,” Adheeb said.
“China presents a new market that has seen rapid growth I think since 2009. We are working to try and adapt at the best level possible and we have seen Chinese staff now working at resorts and even Chinese restaurants are being set up to cater for guests,” he added.
Since the inception of the Maldives tourism industry 40 years ago, Adheeb claimed that there traditionally had been teething problems for the resort industry in adapting to new markets, but that these had always been overcome with time.
“In the early days [of tourism], there were some tensions between German and Italian tourists at resorts, but we always have figured out how to adapt to this,” he said.
“Looking at some of the letters the ministry has received, we used to get complaints from resorts about noise created by Russian tourists. However they are now often the most preferred guests in the country. Travel trends are always changing.”
While expressing sadness at allegations raised in Chinese media, Adheeb said expressed his belief that particularly with China being the largest tourism market for the Maldives, the tourism industry was not biased or discriminatory.
“We [Maldivians] are not biased or discriminatory by nature. There is perhaps a little bias with Asians in the region similar to us, but not to the Chinese,” he added.
20 thoughts on “Calls for Chinese tourism boycott over allegations of ‘cup noodle’ discrimination”
I hate to say this, but sadly again the resort in question is owned by Sun Travel Siyam who had earlier been broiled in another ugly incident which brought disrepute to the Maldivian Tourism Industry.
I am referring to the now infamous "Wedding Ceremony" at Sun Travel Siyam's Vilu Reef resort where the staff performing the ceremony verbally abused the couple.
I am beginning to wonder whether there is a problem in the management set up of Sun Travel Siyam's Company. Siyam is a popular MP and a Leader of a new political party who harbors Presidential ambitions. It would be well advised for him to clean up his in-house for a start.
Discrimination in the Maldives? No way! I find that hard to believe!
What we are racist and small minded, yes you are probably right. Nothing new.
The Chinese are absolutely vicious when wronged. Shiyam should have chosen his victims more wisely.
He will learn, that his resorts are worth nothing without the tourists.
We dont need chinese they are kafir and eat noodle and pork. Dont take room service and no tips for staff. Very poor standard this chinese tourists. Siyam runs very good business and pays lot of money to government and help many people. This Fili Nasheed bring chinese here. Send them home and dont come here with you noodle. We want Islam tourists who dont drink alcohol and pigs.
i agree to the chinese , there is discrimination for the chinese , there are few reason for this for example most resort are operated by europians as they don't like china, chinese. the other thing is they come to see the lovely maldives and the resort the food is too expensive for them, and they don't like the europian style food so they make cup noodle.
i know now in some resorts the hot water is sold is not for free , u just imagine the crazy ness.
maldives resorts sucks.
“We [Maldivians] are not biased or discriminatory by nature." ...yep that's right, we just have a law that says only muslims can be citizens of this country, HA! Always thought the name Adeeb sounds like something stupid.
well hakeem, maybe you should start eating food imported only from non kafir countries. The cow worshipping indians and pork eating chinese. Why don't yopu rather live in some desetrted island with no human habitation. There you can live like the old natives who hunted and gathered food!
Not very nice of Mr. Adheeb whoever he is to say that he may be a little bias as in DISCRIMINATORY to the people in this asian region! WTF is he trying to say???? referring to Indians, srilankans & Bangaldeshis? without whom you lazy Maldivians cannot do a thing in your daily lives.... Such a westernized MUSLIM country...WTF!!!!
some MDP people and Nasheed allies trying to twist the story.
In General Resorts are not discriminating any nationality including chinese.
Here what had happened is that Resort had the policy of not allowing anyone to cook inside the room and people were expected to adhere to the resort policy.
But due to mis communication and misunderstanding, the guest had gone taken some crabs from the beach and tried to cook them in site the rooms in the coffee kettle. Then GRO were asked to tell the guest that it is wrong and they can not do that. This happened to a Chinese guest and this policy is not only for chinese but for all nationalities.
People, makes comments without even knowing what had happen and trying to politicize the event for political reason.
Discrimination or not, the resort and its manager obviously failed meeting customers' needs, which is like, what the service industry is all about. Whatever is big deal to them is a big deal to you. If the customers want to eat cup noodles with hot water you get them their goddamn hot water. Well you pissed off your customers, what the F do you expect. Just be professional about what ya doing
For my first sight about the incident, I think maybe its not true. But when i read this report, especially about Minister's respond, I think discrimination is there. If your government take it serious, they'd better start ivestigation by themselves, they can't wait for chinese complaints. The fire chinses staff told us they are threatened by the resort guards. Most chinese tourists can't speak English, they can't file complaints, but they can tell their friends don't go to Maldive.Even some chinese can speak English, maybe they also don't want troubles. In my mind, maldive is a beautiful place. Take it serious, I am serious.
fantastic news. i think all resorts should follow beach house and remove kettles from chinese guests. then the non-tipping chinese will stop coming to the maldives resorts. 10 of them in a small island takes away the peacefulness that we sell to the world. the europeans and the rest of the world are slowly moving away from maldives because of chinese. if chinese want to come to see beautiful maldives then they should either go to the island guest houses where they can get cup noodles for breakfast lunch dinner and haaru also. or else chinese investors can build some resorts to their own people. well, if what i am talking about is discrimination then be it, this is the truth. chinese dont have manners. they are loud. they are rude. they are greedy. and you gotta be chinese to believe you can come to a world class hotel and cook in your room.
And one more thing Mr. Deeb about discrimination not being in Maldivian nature - we use the same word for nonmuslims ( ie, kafir) as wedo for feeling horny, looking sexy, feeling hot etc etc. unfortunately we do have a culture that is inherently discriminatory. There r way too many Deebs in this country, which is why we are probably so discriminatory in the first place. Not to say that there are many great things about this country, but like Noam Chomsky said, you can't be proud of your nation without first acknowledging all that we have to be ashamed of as well. Wake up mr. Deebs!!!
Come on guys. You are agitating India and West on hopes China will cover you financially. And then you go on and start screwing them too. Either you have actually lost your marbles or you think 300 thousand Maldives can live in world of their own.
Chinese is not going to stop coming to this country because bunch of Fili Nasheed is trying to spread the propaganda against chinese tourist.
Chinese is not stupid like India and they are much better of than the third world India and Nasheed.
The statement from the beach house does not help, even will bring more people to boycott. Now the Beach House Iruveli resort is the most infamous resort in China, congratulations!!!
Boycott boycott boycott!!! What abt the cultural problems of our beloved nation???? This is the real roots of this Chinese boycott for f***s sake! What? I gotta teach u ABC next? Wafankulo!
ayya is completly right,if we hear that a resort has many chinese guests we don't go to that resort.
The tourists are guests in YOUR country and not colonial men!
I don't travel so far if I don't speak at least a little bit English.(But maybe in 50 years we all must speak perfect Mandarin 😉 )
It's one reason to travel that we can learn differant kind of food,they can eat their noodles with pork in China.
The Maldivian Curries and the Fish are so fantastic,it's very stupid from them to eat the same like ever.
When speaking about chinese, they are
demanding and havehigh expectation ! m certain a high class chinese should not act. As we also work in f* we alsos ee chinese day to day ! not all are same . I strongly and loudy calls govermet to act on this and charge should go to this poor fellow whose is plying with Fire ! low class staff ! lol
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