Resorts that break aggressive new regulations governing ‘symbolic wedding ceremonies’ in the Maldives will be fined up to Rf 1 million (US$78,000).
Depending on the nature of the breach, the Tourism Ministry will also have the discretion “to cancel the license granted under this Regulation and to temporarily withhold the permission granted to operate to such resort.”
The government raced to introduce the new regulations after a video of a couple being insulted in Dhivehi by 15 complicit resort staff at Vilu Reef Resort and Spa surfaced on YouTube, and quickly made headlines around the world.
The 15-minute video of the ceremony was uploaded on on October 24 2010 by a member of staff. Vilu Reef Manager Mohamed Rasheed told Minivan News at the time that the staff member who uploaded the video did it as “a joke”, without “realising the seriousness of the potential consequences”.
Earlier this week, President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed rang the couple degraded in the Vilu Reef incident to apologise on behalf of the nation, and invite them back to the Maldives at their convenience as his personal guests.
Non-Muslims are unable to get married in the 100 percent Islamic Maldives, but many tourists pay for elaborate ‘renewal of vows’ ceremonies, often requesting a ‘Maldivian flavour’ to the proceedings.
The new regulations governing such ceremonies state that these ceremonies must now be conducted under the supervision of a resort’s senior management.
“If the tourist chooses to hold their ceremony in a language that is unknown to them, the resort must provide the tourist with a translation of the ceremony in a language they understand,” the President’s Office said in a statement.
Furthermore, “the attendees to the symbolic marriage ceremony shall not engage in any disrespectful activity either actively or verbally while the proceedings are ongoing.”
The regulations also state that “The attire of the participants from the resort organising the symbolic marriage ceremony, the decorations used, the embellishments used to enrich such ceremonies in the form of
entertainment that may be organised and any tunes and songs which may be used during such ceremony, shall be used in a manner compatible with Maldivian culture.”
Resort management must also keep an audio or video recording of a ceremony for one year, if the tourist agrees, and provide it to the Ministry of Tourism on request.
“Tourists frequently say the Maldives’ warm hospitality is the main reason they keep coming back to the country,” said the President’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.