Bodu beru dancers and water cannon salute welcome first scheduled flight from Seoul

Tourists on the first Mega Maldives flight arriving in Male’ direct from Seoul in South Korea this morning were greeted by bodu beru dancers and airport staff handing out coconuts.

As the plane taxied off the runway, two of the airport’s fire engines shot water cannon in an arc over the plane. The 158 bemused passengers were greeted at the top of the stairs by CEO of Mega Maldives George Weinmann, and accompanied through immigration by pilots and flight crew.

Speaking at a press conference of local and South Korean journalists later this morning, Weinmann observed that while the flight was not the first direct flight from Seoul, it was the first such scheduled service and the first for a Maldivian carrier.

All four of the airline’s routes launched this year, he observed, were to cities not previously served by direct flights including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and now Seoul.

“We believe this will increase the total demand for the Maldivian [tourism] product, and also create new opportunities for trade such as exports to Korea,” said Weinmann, a former rocket and satellite engineer with aerospace giant Boeing.

Weinmann said the decision to fly to Korea was influenced by the discovery that South Korea was operating five flights daily to Hawaii, such was the appeal of the iconic tropical destination to the Korean market.

“The flight time to Hawaii from Seoul is nine hours, similar to the flight time to Male’, and the total price of hotels is also similar,” he noted. “This will allow for the development of a lot of new business and trade.”

A water cannon salute greets Mega's first flight from Seoul

Korean arrivals to the Maldives increased 54 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year, from 16,000 to 24,000, suggesting that the country was a rapidly growing market for the Maldives. Weinmann has previously told Minivan News that Mega’s niche is to have flights from Asia that arrive during the day, thus avoiding the need for Asian visitors to overnight in Male’ or Hulhule’ while waiting for daytime transfers.

MD of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Simon Hawkins, acknowledged that the South Korean market had been neglected as far as tourism promotion was concerned, in favour of traditional markets such as Europe.

“We aim to remedy that, now that we have identified South Korea as an emerging market. We want to appeal not just to honeymooners, but also families and organisers of meetings, conferences and exhibitions,” he said.

Chief Commercial Officer of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Prasad Gopalan, meanwhile cited a report stating that South Korea was ranked third in rising numbers of millionaires, after India and China.

“We have done our research – South Korea is an emerging market for the Maldives,” he said.

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Baa Atoll to host Bodu Beru tournament

Baa Atoll and Four Seasons will host a Bodu Beru tournament in honor of Baa Atoll’s recent designation as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The ‘Baa Youth Bodu Beru Challenge’ will take place on 17 and 18 November 2011 on Kamadhoo. The competition is open to Bodu Beru groups with 16 to 26 members aged 15 to 25 from the 13 islands of Baa Atoll.

Four Seasons has teamed up with Male-based cultural arts institution Varutha for the event. The institution was founded in 2007, when the ‘Meenaz’ bodu beru group noticed the need for a formal, organised means of sustaining Maldivian arts culture.

Varutha dancers will lead a 10-day workshop from September 23 to October 3. Two drummers from each competing group will have the opportunity to hone their skills and explore new bodu beru beats and methods.

Bodu beru is said to have made its first appearance in the Maldives in the 11th century AD, allegedly by sailors in the Indian Ocean. Bodu beru groups typically consist of 15 performers, including three drummers and a lead singer. Using a small bell, a set of drums known as the ‘bodu beru’, and an onugandu – a small piece of bamboo with horizontal grooves, which is scraped – performers create a lively rhythm for dancing.

Varutha’s co-founder, Sham’aa Abdullah Hameed [Anna], expressed appreciation and support for the youth arts event.

“The tournament reflects our shared mission to reconnect local youth with their rich cultural heritage by restoring, developing and incorporating tradition into the rapidly evolving Maldivian music scene. We’re looking forward to a successful workshop and an exciting two days of competition.”

Landaa Giraavaru’s General Manager and Regional Vice President, Armando Kraenzlin, said UNESCO’s recognition of the environmental value of Baa Atoll inspired the competition.

“UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves rely on optimum social, economic, and cultural conditions for environmental sustainability. We’re delighted to be working with Varutha to help strengthen the respect for cultural values amongst the Baa Atoll youth, while giving them an opportunity to contribute to their home island’s own sustainability.”

The winning team will receive Rf 100,000 (US$6485) towards a community project, and Rf 10,000 (US$650) for themselves. The team will also be invited to an awards ceremony on Landaa Giraavaru island on 28 December.

Team Application Forms and full Tournament Rules and Regulations can be downloaded at www.facebook.com/baa.boduberuchallenge.

All applications must be submitted via email by 30 September 2011 to [email protected]

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