Maldivian tourism authorities are pursuing private sector funding to secure advertising with prominent media networks such as CNN, after this week signing a sponsorship agreement with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal told Minivan News that authorities were presently looking for ongoing partnerships within the country’s resort industry to help fund a year-long global media campaign to offset the impacts of negative international headlines believed to have affected tourism this year.
The government yesterday finalised a US$250,000 (Rf3.8million) advertising deal to promote the country’s tourism industry on the BBC through sponsorship of its weather services. Tourism authorities said the strategy reflected a collaboration between the government and the private sector to try and strengthen arrival numbers to the country.
Under the recently reinstated “Sunny Side of Life” branding, Maleeh said the sponsorship of the BBC’s weather services will run from June 18 to August 27 on both the BBC World TV service as well as the broadcaster’s website.
In April, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) confirmed the appointment of New-York based public relations agency Ruder Finn to “oversee the overall media coordination and achievement of PR related solution for destination Maldives.”
According a contract speculated to be worth over US$150,000 per month, Ruder Finn is required to work to: “ instill confidence in the tourism industry of the Maldives, gain understanding and public acknowledgement of the Maldives in the international community and ensure sustainable development of the tourism industry.”
Questioned whether the BBC sponsorship agreement was designed to try and generate greater media coverage about the Maldives on international news services, Maleeh claimed the MMPRC’s promotion plans were focused on tourism rather than generating headlines.
“At present we are trying to build investor confidence in the country,” he claimed. “There has been too much focus on stories such as how the Maldives will be sinking in 30 years.”
Maleeh pointed to recent coverage of several events in the lead up to February’s controversial transfer of power – such as former President Mohamed Nasheed’s proposed spa ban – as an example of headlines that had damaged confidence among tourists and investors in the Maldives.
The previous government under Nasheed claimed a spa ban introduced back in December 2011 was made in response to criticisms made against it during a demonstration of opposition politicians and NGOS relating to “un-Islamic” practices in the country.
Once the present BBC sponsorship agreement ends in August, Maleeh added that the MMPRC and tourism authorities hoped to secure more funding to continue its advertising plans. He said that the motivation at present was to extend advertising ideally to “all mainstream media organisations” such as organisations like CNN.
Maleeh stressed that funding remained the biggest issue at present to extending advertising efforts.
“We are seeking support from local and international hospitality groups right now,” he said. “We are still waiting to receive support. However, other hotel chains have shown an interest.”
During the signing of the BBC agreement yesterday at the Conrad Rangali Island Resort, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb welcomed the assistance of local business tycoons Mohamed ‘Champa’ Moosa and Mohamed Umar Maniku in securing the deal, according to local media.
Adheeb told Sun Online that authorities had decided to re-use the country’s “The Sunny Side of Life” branding due to previous experiences the industry had with the slogan, as well as negating costs associated with setting up an entirely new brand.
“Over the past years it has become a very expensive brand. I believe that if we were to opt for a rebranding it would in the least cost us US$50 million. We don’t have that much of a budget. The new government decided to go forward with the old brand,” he was quoted as telling local media.
Meanwhile, Vice President Waheed Deen, who was also present during the signing, lauded the financing of the new ad campaign as an “achievement” and a “success” for the country as it celebrates 40 years since the inception of Maldivian tourism during 2012.
The 50,000 member-strong opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintains it was ousted from power on February 7 following what then President Mohamed Nasheed described as a coup d’état planned by political opposition, sponsored by some wealthy resort tycoons and carried out by a mutinous police and military. The party has continued to claim that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government is illegitimate and represents a return to the autocratic era of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Such criticisms of the present government have led to the establishment of the Maldives Tourism Advisory (MTA) by the Friends of Maldives NGO that names resorts alleged by the MDP to have involvement in the “coup”.
In April, the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has issued a statement expressing “serious concern” over what it describes as a “concerted international campaign” against several of the country’s resort operators.
MATI claimed that calls from the Maldives Tourism Advisory (MTA) for tourists to avoid certain properties on the basis of ownership were “libellous in the extreme”, as the allegations against the tourist resort operators “have not been proven either through an investigation or a court of law.”
The MTA website features a ‘traffic light’ system with “red” resorts recently appearing to have been expanded to include an assortment of 18 properties owned by Vice President Waheed Deen and senior figures associated with the new ruling coalition, including Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Jabir.