Tourism insiders say that the industry has not done enough to provide security at the country’s resorts as authorities, while security officials and businesses continue to work on outlining new protective measures for properties across the country.
As security officials continue to await the outcomes from consultations by a steering group formed following a security seminar and workshop held last week to outline methods to reduce possible threats facing the country’s resorts, some property owners and managers appear divided over the severity of the challenges faced.
Speaking to Minivan News, ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said that despite ongoing attempts to outline a nationwide resort security initiative since 2008, no such policy had as yet been put in place.
Following last week’s security seminars, Sim said he was confident that by working with the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), the police, and the coastguard, progress was now being made in outlining long-term security strategies for tourism. He conceded though that the industry would need to bare more of the financial brunt to protect its interests in the future.
“Resorts do need more investment in regards to security, we haven’t done enough so far,” said the MATI head.
Sim said that last week’s seminar reflected growing industry concerns of late raised by the active Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as industry bodies over protecting the country’s lucrative resort islands from possible theft and attack.
The country has this year alone faced two isolated, yet high-profile incidences of intrusion at properties such as Kihaadhuffaru resort and Baros Island Resort and Spa highlighting for some the magnitude of the threats facing the country.
Sim claimed that these concerns were not an “isolated” issue for tourist properties alone, but rather a symptom of rising levels of crime on inhabited islands such as the Maldivian capital of Male’ that had spilled onto resorts.
“This is not to say that the government is working on this issue [of crime], but really they need better laws in the country for offenders,” he claimed.
To try and combat fears over criminals targeting resorts, the MATI Secretary-General said he believed that improved networking between different resorts and ease of communication was a vital part of limiting potential attacks in the future. He added that the closer cooperation between tourism officials and the police and armed forces in the country was also seen as another key aim.
However, Sim claimed that rather than bringing wide-ranging reforms to tourist and resort security, the country would be better prioritising commitments in areas where it was able to ensure effective changes could be put in place.
He added that a committee containing government and tourism industry figures was now working to address what sort of commitments should be prioritised on the back of last week’s security seminar.
“The best thing to come from these talks is that we are now attempting to work together [with the government and security forces]. We know we are not alone as an industry,” he said. “In the past, we have tended not to mix the leisure side of holidays with security, but this is something that we need to do.”
Speaking today to Minivan News, National Security Advisor Ameen Faisal said that he still haven’t received feedback from the steering committee of government and industry figures regarding outlining new proposals for resort security.
While Faisal added that he was not sure of the exact nature that potential changes could mean for how defence forces worked with the tourism industry, he was convinced it would not lead to a rise in their presence on resort islands.
“Personally, I don’t think operational changes will be seen in the manner that police and the MNDF operate regarding tourism,” he said. “There will probably be some training programmes conducted by police for resort security, but I don’t think we will see a physical presence by defence forces at these resorts.”
In addressing any perceived threats posed by Maldivian gang crime reaching the isolated environs of the country’s tourist properties, not all resort groups appeared to have share MATI’s beliefs that security problems were generated solely by offshore criminals.
One general manager for a leading multinational brand of resorts in the country said under anonymity that he believed the resort robberies were more likely to have resulted from serving or former employees with knowledge of the properties than from random attacks by gangs or opportunistic thieves.
In taking this view, the general manager said that he believed it was often imperative to try and effectively manage staff and their grievances that could often occur from very small and often easily rectified measures.