Maldives dominates Indian Ocean travel awards, host and sponsors among winners

The Maldives dominated this year’s Indian Ocean World Travel Awards (WTA) event, scooping a number of prizes during the ceremony hosted yesterday (May 12) at the country’s Paradise Island Resort and Spa – itself a winner on the night.

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture said the event, estimated to have cost around US$30,000 in shared expenditures for corporate sponsors and local authorities, will play a significant part in promoting the Maldives internationally this year.

Authorities have previously stated the ceremony would also provide a major boost to the reputation of the destination’s resorts for hosting events and conferences.

However, one senior local travel industry figure in attendance at yesterday’s ceremony told Minivan News that despite providing “great publicity”, concerns remained over the credibility of the WTA voting process – pointing to the high number of collaborators and sponsors receiving accolades.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said that without discrediting the night’s “worthy winners”, the announcement of certain accolades were met with “audible groans” by those in attendance during the ceremony.


According to the WTA website, the Maldives was awarded the accolades of the Indian Ocean’s leading beach, cruise and overall regional destination, beating competition from Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion Island and Seychelles.

However, the country lost out to Mauritius in the categories of the Indian Ocean’s leading dive and honeymoon destinations for the year.

Maldives-based properties including the Conrad Rangali Island resort, W Retreat and Spa, Gili Lankanfushi, Baros Maldives, Sun Island Resort and Spa and Ayada Maldives all claimed accolades across a number of categories.  These categories included the ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Green Resort 2013’ and the ‘Indian Ocean’s Most Romantic Resort 2013′.

The evening’s winners also included Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male’, which was recognised as the ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Airport 2013’. The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) was also honoured as ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Tourist Board 2013’, while Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb was recognised as the ‘Indian Ocean’s Travel and Tourism Personality’, according to the WTA.

Other winners included the ceremony’s host venue, the Paradise Island Resort and Spa, which took several awards during the evening. Local operators including Atoll Paradise and Lets Go Maldives were also awarded. A new award in the category of ‘Outstanding services to the Tourist Industry, Indian Ocean’ was presented to Sri Lankan Airlines.

The WTA said in promotional material that Sri Lankan Airlines, Lets Go Maldives, the MMPRC and Jumhoree Party (JP) MP and presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group – operator of Paradise Island Resort and Spa – had all collaborated in bringing the awards to the Maldives.

Positive headlines

A senior tourism industry source present during the event said that the WTA ceremony would no doubt generate much needed positive headlines for the Maldives as a destination.

However, the source raised concerns about the credibility of some of the winners during yesterday’s ceremony.

“The nominees who put the most [money] into it often seem to get awards. Yet guests hang their hat on the outcome of such things,” said the senior industry figure.

The same source alleged that while there were winners on the night who deserved their accolades, the decision to grant awards to numerous key collaborators and sponsors of the event raised questions over the ultimate credibility of the event.

“I believe whichever destination is chosen has to pay to host the awards. This is part and parcel of such an event. It needs sponsors like airlines to cover transportation of staff and organisers and a place for them to stay. I guess this is how it works in terms of the economics, but this also creates a problem of credibility when the same groups win,” the industry insider alleged.

“Some of the the winners last night were certainly warranted, others not so much. I think most will take the awards with a pinch of salt.”

The source claimed that one award winner, alleged to be facing severe financial difficulties and failing to make substantial payments to creditors, nonetheless managed to scoop the top award in its category.

WTA response

A spokesperson for the WTA, which is this year celebrating its 20th anniversary, rejected any allegations of wrongdoing in its voting system.

“We are a totally transparent organisation and, in the last 20 years of World Travel Awards, have been regarded with the highest integrity in the tourism and hospitality world, hence our longevity,” the spokesperson stated.

The organisation added that details of how its voting system worked were available on its website.  Minivan News was awaiting further response from organisation’s global business directors at the time of press.

Event hosting

Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal told Minivan News that hosting the WTA regional event would send a signal around the world concerning the country’s ability to host events and conventions.

“Last night was very important for expanding event-based tourism in the country and we are proud to host the awards,” he said. “This is not about dollars and cents, the event is about goodwill. Through his network, WTA President Graham Cooke last night ensured efforts would continue to promote the Maldives.”

Maleeh said that the total expenditure behind hosting such an event, which was shared with several corporate partners, was “quite minimal”, focusing on areas such as the transportation of guests and printing promotional materials. By comparison he said the rewards for the industry such as international media coverage and global publicity would be significant.

Tourism authorities over the last year have looked to bounce back from the perceived negative impacts of political uncertainty in the Maldives back in 2012 – narrowly missing out on obtaining one million visitors to the country during the course of last year.

With a recent high-profile campaign by petition site potentially calling for a boycott of the country’s lucrative travel industry, Maleeh said events like the WTA award were an important means to leverage publicity.

He said that the event was especially important at a time when the country was officially celebrating 40 years since the inception of its tourism industry, helping authorities to overcome a limited promotional budget provided by parliament in the state budget.

Maleeh added that the success of hosting the WTA ceremony now paved the way for the country to host other high-profile events with a capacity of between 200 – 300 people in the future, as part of a planned expansion into meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) tourism.

With a number of the country’s exclusive island resorts offering convention facilities on site, Maleeh added that MICE would allow the Maldives to attract an entirely different segment of travellers – many likely to be first time visitors – to help generate word of mouth about the country.

“What we need to work on is more resorts to cater for this market, this will include trying to ensure that such events can be hosted beyond the Male’ area,” he said.

Maleeh claimed ahead of the WTA ceremony last month that the emergence of new regional airports around the country would open up a wider number of properties and businesses to potentially benefit from demand for MICE tourism.

He added that senior representatives from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) were also scheduled to travel to the Maldives in September for a special high-profile panel discussion.


10 thoughts on “Maldives dominates Indian Ocean travel awards, host and sponsors among winners”

  1. Is this a joke? Ibrahim Nasir Airport is flooded inside and in some areas on the outside where planes park. How the hell can anyone believe our airport can win any award at its horrible status.

    The bigger the contribution, the more awards you get. Look at HIH, its the best transit hotel in Asia, the best cuisine, the best service not even airports in Singapore, Honkong, Malaysia or India can match. Wondered how they got all these certifications? Ask the GM.

    I will be proud if the simple Maldivian far away in the island who makes local products used in these resorts, also enjoys the benefits and credits. Unfortunately they don't. I would be a proud Maldivian if the tourists have a feel of our lives, our cultures, our food and our history. Unfortunately, they are never given the opportunity to, simply because there is so much shit going on.

    This drama on Paradise resort benefits a few business tycoons and politically used by the present government for upcoming elections. Believe me or not, it will not change the 2 million voices and more that read this morning that Maldives has had over 200 sexual abuses towards children and women, where our national hospital IGMH doesnt have medicines, and doctors on strike, where 70% of the population lives on borrowings and forced to lie to survive.

    Sometimes when we look back ten to twenty years ago, people enjoyed the fruits from tourism, local islands enjoyed business of T-shirts, hand made products, etc. Today, everything is sourced from Thailand or Indonesia...resorts have become 5 star mini jails where Maldivians are refugees while a few lucky ......enjoy all the benefits.

    The revolution happening in Bangladesh garment industry should happen in our tourism where we need to be part of it and enjoy its benefits. Lavish meetings and awards wont change or improve the lives of thousands begging for daily bread.

    The guest house concept and local tourism seems one step forward to integrate local people and open Maldives to the world. At the moment only international chain of hotels are reeping the country as much as the seven oil sister ripped the third world off its oil reserves!!!!

  2. If we did not win under these conditions, we never would. What a fix.

  3. Maldives wins from Maldives area. In Maldives area there is only Maldives. That is like saying IGMH is the best hospital frm Maafannu kinda double-speak. Tks

  4. In my opinion the whole ceremony was a mess. Knowing this is the rainy season in Maldives I really don't understand why they have hosted the ceremony as an out door event. The whole atmosphere was ruined as all the participants were holding umbrellas. Of course there was no option as it was an outdoor event.
    I myself personally knows it very well that how WTA works. So I don't want to comment on the award received by INIA and the personality award for Hon. Minister Adheeb.

    Out from this event, the highly branded hotels in Maldives definitely will go to a second thought in participating WTA in the future. If INIA receives the leading airport in Indian Ocean,then the deserved awards for highly branded hotels like One & Only and Conrad are not any more deserved.

    Maldives Tourism Promotion Board could have organized this event far better than this. They could have host this grand ceremony in Equatorial Convention Centre in Addu City. Now the question will be the accommodation for the participants? The answer is very simple, Herathere Island Resort. It will be much convenient and for the government and MTPB to accommodate the participant in Herathere as that Hotel is operated by a government owned company MTDC. Still Villa group will get the chance to sponsor the event by handing the transportation from their booming wings "Flyme". This was a real opportunity that we missed to promote Event tourism.

    In short the "Oscars of the Travel Industry" wasn't that glittering in Sunny side of life.

  5. lol & facts & kulasuriya

    They are talking about INDIAN OCEAN WINNERS

    Reunion Island

    There are Several Ceremonies held based on regions, the one Maldives hosted was the Indian Ocean Ceremony, There was a separate Middle East Ceremony held in Dubai on 5th May 2013.. and next will be South and Central America region followed by Europe, Caribbean and North America, Asia & Australia ceremonies..

    The last and the most prestigious will be the Grand Final Gala Ceremony that will be held in Las Vegas..

    Some of you guys are too polarized that u love ur yellow jacket more than ur country.. what a pity

  6. ISSUE: Donors may have influenced outcome of international award ceremony.

    Is this legal?
    Yes and often is the case in most international awards.

    My opinion?
    No business will foot the bill for any event that does not bring them returns. I have already commented on this issue under an opinion piece posted on Minivan. If this event brings in more foreign income through the tourism industry the entire public treasury stands to gain. What we need is to maintain pressure on the successive governments to ensure that the money is spent on development of our economy and our people.

  7. Hiya, just want to inform all that this is a 100% "PAID" award process. I have personally been involved TWICE in negotiating the payment for the award in the past!

    First, WTA analyses which are the top rated products within the resort segment and the Tour operator segment. They contact the top 10 products in each segment and offer this prestigious award to them. Then it depends on the highest bidder. If there are two bidders with the SAME amount, WTA would be "KIND" enough to create another award for the same segment!! Case in point: "Best Tour Operator in Maldives", "Best Travel Agency in Maldives"!! HIH continues to receive awards year after year as the "BEST Airport Hotel"!! MY FOOT! OR Villa hotels receiving the BEST SPA BRAND in the Maldives when you have so many incredible International SPA brands in the Maldives!! STRANGE indeed right?

    This is an absolute farce and it is extremely unfortunate, sad and depressing that the entire Government machinery just goes in BLINDLY without any credibility checks on the platform/forum and puts the President of the country AND the Minister of Tourism of the country in such embarrassing and irrevocable situations.... Innocence is fine FIRST TIME but being gullible & greedy AND assuming that you can fool everybody every time is absolutely SUICIDAL! Sad day for Maldives Tourism...

  8. what ever said and done , it is a known fact these awards like any other have to be purchased. So does the world travel award.

    But at least this had given a good exposure to the country and still many people appreciate this award.

    We all know that only criteria to win the award to is to give a finical contribution .

    But some people who had made comments had not seen the event and or even not aware of how this work and they just seem to make comments because they are politically aligned.

    One and Only Resort is the most popular and successful resort in Maldives and they have won an award on the event too. But I guess all the award can not go the same resort for all category.

    But there are few questionable awards that were given and those were given just may on the basis of finical contribution .


Comments are closed.