Maldives wins WTA’s “World’s Leading Island Destination 2013”

The Maldives has been awarded the title of “World’s Leading Island Destination” at the 2013 World Travel Awards (WTA) Grand Finale hosted at the La Cigale Hotel in Doha, Qatar last week.

This is the third time the Maldives has won the prestigious travel award. The WTA is hailed as the “Oscars of the Travel Industry.”

The Maldives competed against Bali in Indonesia, Barbados, Cook Islands, Crete in Greece, Jamaica, the Madeira Islands, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Sicily in Italy, St. Lucia, and Zanzibar in Tanzania this year.

Maldivian resorts also scooped a number of awards in various categories with Hulhule Island Hotel winning the World’s Leading Airport Resort 2013, and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island winning the World’s Leading Water Villa Resort 2013.

Baros Maldives won recognition as the World’s Most Romantic Resort 2013 and World’s Leading Island Villas 2013.

The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) said the awards highlight the “uniqueness” of Maldives and recognizes the Maldives as a world-class luxury destination.

On November 25, the Maldives reached one million tourist arrivals for the first time in a calendar year. Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb said the “victory had been made possible amidst boycott campaigns and other such obstacles.”

The political turmoil following the controversial transfer of power in February 2012 had caused growth in the tourism industry to stall, but growth is expected to pick up this year.

Maldivian pro-democracy activists previously made headlines around the world after hijacking the MMPRC’s official hashtag and slogan “Sunny Side of Life” in 2012 and the official hashtag of London’s World Travel Market in November this year to call attention to police brutality in the Maldives.

The Maldives dominated this year’s Indian Ocean World Travel Awards (WTA) event held in May, scooping a number of prizes including ‘Indian Ocean’s Leading Green Resort 2013′ and the ‘Indian Ocean’s Most Romantic Resort 2013′.

World Travel Awards celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year.


Maldives resorts, local communities participating in whale shark festival

This story was first published on the Maldives resort review site,

South Ari Atoll is hosting a whale shark festival aiming to bring together local resorts and communities with a view to expanding cooperation on conservation – as well as providing tourists with insight into one of the country’s most elusive creatures.

Based on the island of Dhigurah, the festival is focused not only on trying to better understand the movement and behaviours of whale sharks in their natural habitat, but also to give visitors a chance to better understand South Ari Atoll’s ecology and culture.

Organisers have expressed hope that the festival will establish itself as an annual event in the country, having already secured sponsorship from a number of resorts including LUX* Maldives, Mirihi Island, Vilamendhoo, Holiday Island and the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.

The event also represents a collaboration between local NGOs such as the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP), the South Ari Marine Protected Area, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Beyond the country’s traditional appeal as a destination for sun, sand and sea, sightings of creatures like the whale shark have increasingly proven a major draw for visitors in recent years.

In attempts to balance the potential environmental impacts of increased numbers of visitors wishing to experience the country’s delicate ecosystems, several island resort properties have announced collaborations with conservation groups and marine reserves across the country.

The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort told Dhonisaurus that beyond playing a role in today’s festival, the property over the last six years has been involved with efforts to promote better conservation and understanding of whale sharks in the country.

Resort spokesperson Katherine Anthony said the resort had been a main sponsor of the MWSRP NGO since 2007, as part of a strategy she said reflected the seriousness with which the property treated the conservation and study of the local environment.

Conrad has said that the nature of the resort’s sponsorship of the MWSRP is partly financial, but  also provided accommodation, fuel and food to the group’s researchers for nine months of the year.

Besides research, the MWSRP also allows guests at the property to participate in three weekly excursions to go out and see the creatures.

“They can talk about whale sharks in depth and give a much more detailed and focused excursion than you’d find elsewhere due to the MWSRP’s in depth knowledge of whale sharks,” she said.

“What we have found is that already one guest has joined the MWSRP as a research volunteer, so it’s definitely a program that’s of interest to our guests.”

Anthony added that resort guests accepting an invite to the festival would be given a unique and rarely seen insight into the local environment.

“It’s also an excellent opportunity to see life on an inhabited Maldivian island, eat Maldivian food, meet Maldivians and talk to them about their lives,” she said.

Biosphere ambitions

On a national level, the Maldives government is moving ahead with plans to transform the Maldives into what it claims will be the world’s largest  biosphere reserve by designating zones across the country that would earmark land use for specific purposes such as tourism development or conservation.

In approving the plan to transform the country into a “world renowned” marine reserve, members of the cabinet claim there has been a growing number of visitors to areas such as Baa Atoll after it became a protected area.

While some tourism industry figures have welcomed existing efforts to transformation areas such as Baa Atoll into bio-reserves, concerns have been raised about the efforts taken to manage such zones in balancing tourism interests with preserving local habitats.


Maldives tourism and the “Robinson Crusoe” experience

This story was originally published on Minivan News’ spin-off travel review site,

As a destination, the Maldives has long attempted to sell itself as a real ‘Robinson Crusoe’ destination, trying to evoke Daniel Defoe’s 18th century novel of exotic isolation and cultural relativism – albeit with air-conditioned luxury and underwater wine cellars.

Yet while the country’s exclusive island resort properties have garnered international attention over the last four decades for high-end luxury, an increasing number of hospitality groups are seeking to offer their own take on what a desert-island Maldives experience should be.

These attempts at trying to create a picture postcard-quality romantic idyll include offering luxurious camping for a couple on a private beach location, isolated champagne picnics on a sandbank or the opportunity to hire an entire island exclusively for a small group of friends or loved ones.

At the the W Retreat in North Ari Atoll for instance, guests are being offered the opportunity to stay overnight on the nearby private island of Gaathafushi.

According to the resort, the island is entirely deserted apart from a special hut housing a large bed swing – or in the case of overnight stays – one of W’s “signature” beds . However, depending on a customer’s imagination, the island can also come equipped with Seabob underwater propulsion devices or even a personal DJ.

W has said the island is traditionally set aside for couples or small groups of friends, although it can be booked for special private events such as wedding celebrations.

An overnight Gaathafushi experience, including breakfast and transfers costs US$3,500. Other packages can be found on the group’s website.

Meanwhile, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort in Alifu Dhaalu Atoll is offering guests the chance to experience luxury abandonment on a desert island. Guests are provided with a hamper, a bottle of chilled champagne and a mobile phone as their only connection to the outside world.

The package, costing US$800, includes speedboat transportation to and from the resort. Guests are able to call for collection once they are ready to return to the resort.

Borderless dining

The Dusit Thani resort has attempted to combine an idyllic deserted beach experience with a focus on culinary experimentation, offering picnic experiences on nearby uninhabited islands or sandbanks.

“Our guests really enjoy this sense of isolation on their own deserted island,” said Dusit Thani Maldives General Manager Desmond Hatton.

“We also offer borderless dining on our own beaches. A concept which allows for our chefs to create a culinary experience tailored to our guests’ desires. Whether it is a champagne breakfast as the sun rises or a candle lit BBQ in the sand at sunset, there is no limit.”

Available all year round, prices for the borderless dining package start at US$165 per person and US$175 for the uninhabited island picnic.

However, it is not just resort operators seeking to play up the potential of island exclusion in the Maldives.

Island for hire

Straddling the line between more independent travel and the country’s exclusive island resort model is the island of Olhahali.

An expanse of beach and vegetation just 285 metres in length and 60 metres wide, Olahali’s management claim the island is one of the few destinations in the country that can be booked for a guest’s exclusive use.

Silke Weber, PR Manager for the island’s management company, Grand Meridian Pvt.Ltd, said that Olhahali catered for a wide variety of customers from private mega yacht and safari vessel owners, to resort guests and locals.

“As well special offers for Maldivians and expatriates working in Maldives. We also offer guided snorkel trips and guided dives as well fishing trips by boat,” added Weber.

“The extensive beach of fine white sand surrounding the island is stunning and the heart of the island is abound in lush green vegetation left as nature intended, providing cool and shaded spots.”

While offering a unique level of privacy to customers, Weber claimed that having operated Olhahali on a single-guest basis was not without its challenges when compared to a multi-villa island resort property. However, she maintained that Olhahali was a unique experience in the Maldives, even amidst attempts by local guest-houses to try and offer desert island getaways.

“The [big] challenge is the marketing and to handle the bookings as we rent out the island only to one client at the time and specially in the high season that can be a challenge,” she said.

Available for a maximum of 40 people for US$2000 a day, Olhahali offers a number of other packages for guests that are available on the island’s official website.

Independent travel

In December last year, the author of the latest Lonely Planet travel book to focus on the Maldives told Dhonisaurus that there huge potential to expand independent travel across the Maldives’ ‘inhabited islands’ through use of sandbanks and desert islands

However, the author added great compromise would be needed by authorities to ensure independent operators could be viable going forward.

Under the country’s laws, traditional holiday staples such as the sale and consumption of alcohol and pork products, and women publicly sunbathing in bikinis, are outlawed outside designated ‘uninhabited’ islands set aside exclusively for resort development.

Tom Masters, a journalist and travel writer who contributes to the Lonely Planet series of travel guides, said he ultimately believed local islands could still provide independent travellers with “sufficient attractions”, even within the strictly conservative laws practices outside of the country’s resort islands.

“However, I think only a tiny proportion of potential visitors would be happy to accept such a number of restrictions on their annual holiday, and so if some degree of compromise could be reached on issues such as alcohol or sunbathing, then the number of travellers opting for island tourism over that in an expensive resort would rise enormously,” he said at the time.

Despite the claims, the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has said that even with the emergence of a number of boutique guest houses around and the planned expansion of domestic flights routes in the Maldives, the market for independent travel will remain “quite insignificant”.


Union links New Zealand consul to Maldives resort worker dispute

The New Zealand Government risks being held in “international disrepute” over the alleged involvement of one of its honorary consuls in an ongoing employment dispute with a Maldives resort, a letter from the Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) has warned.

The letter addressed to New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully has alleged that the country’s Honorary Consul in the Maldives, Ahmed Saleem, was “involved” in an employment dispute with 29 former resort workers from Conrad Rangali Island resort in the Maldives.

In June 2011, 29 staff members working at the Conrad resort alleged they had been dismissed from their posts following a strike held by workers in March that year. However, the resort operator denied the allegations, maintaining that the staff had been made redundant and at the time due to renovations and lower occupancies as a result of the low season.

Conrad Rangali Island resort has previously stated that affected staff had all been provided with “generous” financial support packages as part of their redundancies.

According to the letter sent this month by the SFWU’s National Secretary John Ryall, 22 of the workers made redundant at the resort later challenged their dismissal at a local employment tribunal. The trade union said the tribunal had ruled the employees’ termination had been “unfair” and ordered the resort to reinstate the staff.

The letter alleged that the Conrad Rangali Island resort, supported by resort owners Crown Company, refused to comply with the tribunal order. However, the resort group has maintained that the case was presently being heard at the Maldives High Court.

The letter also alleges that Saleem, through his dual position as New Zealand’s Honorary Consul in the Maldives and as one of the directors of Crown Company, “advertised” his business as being located as the same address as the consulate.

“We urge you to inform Mr Saleem that having the New Zealand government connected in any way with defying a court reinstatement order for workers who were merely standing up for their basic rights is unacceptable and will bring our country into disrepute internationally,” the statement read.

“We urge you to inform Mr Saleem If he wants to continue as a New Zealand Government representative that he needs to ensure that the court ruling is immediately adhered to, that the Crown Company – appointed management recognise the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) union and that good faith negotiations commence to resolve the outstanding issue,” the letter reads.

Minivan News was waiting for a response from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Saleem at time of press.

Seaborne protest

On Friday (January 4), Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) held a seaborne protest near the beaches of Conrad Rangali Island Resort over the resort’s alleged refusal to comply with the tribunal order.

TEAM Secretary General Mauroof Zakir told Minivan News that the aim of the protest was to make guests aware of the allegations raised by former staff members, as well as the employment tribunal verdict calling for their reappointment.

“We went by boat to show our banners to the tourists on the beach [at the resort]. There were a lot of guests there who saw what we had written, however after two hours the police came,” he said.

“Even though we close to the island, we did not cross the line that dictates what the resorts property is. Even though we said this, the Police said they would arrest us if we stayed any longer.”

A spokesperson for Conrad Rangali Island Resort told Minivan News yesterday (January 8 ) that the case is currently under appeal at the High Court.

“Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is aware that there are petitions for the reinstatement of employees made redundant in 2011. The case is under appeal at the High Court of the Maldives and the final verdict is still pending.

“We would like to remind the media that the resort is not required to reinstate the previous employees while the High Court considers the appeal,” the spokesperson added.

Industrial action

TEAM has claimed that its seaborne protest was the beginning of a wider movement that would focus on workers from other resorts alleged to have been mistreated by management.

Mauroof stated that members of TEAM intend to picket at the airport and that letters have already been sent to President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and other senior government officials to inform them of an industrial strike.

“I have already been receiving mail form many resort workers as they all want to go on strike right now. But we have to go by regulations, especially in accordance to the new bill outlining the rules for protest,” Maroouf said.

Under the new ‘Freedom of Assembly Bill’ recently passed by parliament, demonstrations outside a number of public places, including resorts and airports will be outlawed.

The regulation also states that although demonstrators do not need to seek authorization ahead of a gathering, police must be then notified of any pre-planned demonstrations before they commence.

Palm Beach Island Resort protests

On Saturday (January 6), local media reported that room boys from Palm Beach Island Resort had gone on strike over alleged delays to salary increments.

A resort employee told local newspaper Haveeru that the striking room boys had also demanded for the head of the Human Resources Department to be sacked over mistreatment of staff.

“There are room boys who have worked here for seven years. However, even they are yet to receive a salary increment. It has been months since a pay raise had been promised,” a resort employee was quoted as saying.

According to Haveeru, the Italian management of the resort pays their room boys MVR2,500 as a basic salary while an estimated US$80 to US$90 as service charge.

Palm Beach resort was not available for comment when contacted by Minivan News at time of press.

Speaking at a photo exhibition celebrating 40 years of tourism on Sunday (January 6) Tourism Minister Ahmed Ahdeeb said that the ministry had been informed about the recent protests.

“We have engaged with both the resort and the striking staff to take a middle position where we can calm the situation. In the future, other disputes will be addressed and we intend to look into them,” he added.


Civil Aviation Authority investigation under-way over capsized seaplane

The Maldives Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has confirmed that an investigation is presently taking place into an incident that saw a Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) seaplane capsized near to the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort yesterday.

CAA Chief Executive Hussain Jaleel told Minivan News today that no one had been injured in the incident, which had resulted in some structural damage.

“We are investigating the matter right now,” he said. “There are reports of some structural damage so we are required to do this, but there have been no injuries recorded.”

When questioned as to whether the incident may lead to a wider review of current seaplane procedures in the Maldives, Jaleel said that it was not possible to say without the report’s conclusion.

“Let’s see what the report finds first,” he added.

Citing an unidentified contact who claimed to be present on the resort at the time, newspaper Haveeru reported yesterday that the incident occurred after a propeller on the seaplane’s left side struck a platform. The collision was reported to have broken a pontoon and resulted in the aircraft then capsizing.


Resort giant rejects dismissed local workers’ allegations of foreigner bias

Hospitality giant Conrad Hotels and Resorts has rejected accusations concerning its treatment of a group of Maldivian workers made redundant earlier this month at its Rangali Island Resort, claiming the site adheres to both company and Maldivian labour laws when dealing with staff.

Responding to accusations made by a group of 29 staff that resort management recently decided to make redundant over concerns about profitability during the low season, Conrad claimed all its staff were treated “fairly” regardless of their ethnicity.

The group of staff dismissed this month by the company have alleged that whilst working at the Conrad Rangali Island Resort, they witnessed multiple examples of Maldivian workers being discriminated against in favour of expatriate workers of other nationalities. The group claimed that some staff were additionally made to flout expiry dates and other quality standards by management figures.

Some of the allegations reflect wider concerns about the treatment of Maldivian staff across the country’s resort industry, says the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM), which it claims varies significantly in comparison to other countries.  The group claimed that these discrepancies may, in some cases, verge on being “racial abuse”.

Not singling out a particular resort for the practices, TEAM told Minivan News that it believed there were widespread discrepancies in the treatment of Maldivian resort staff in areas such as payment compared to resort workers of other nationalities.

“There are bigger concerns regarding some of these issues – particularly we see there is some salary discrepancy between Maldivian staff and other employees,” claimed TEAM President Ahmed Shihaam. “Right now however, we are focusing on more prominent concerns such as the possible introduction of a national minimum wage.”

The group of workers dismissed from Conrad this month claimed that they believed they had been removed from their positions for demanding action on issues involving site management and staff.  The workers were dismissed with redundancy packages, according to Conrad.

According to the group, management figures had threatened to fire members of staff for their role in trying to raise the issues, which they claimed were linked to strikes taking place at the resort over several days in March of this year.

“There is a lot of discrimination going on in the island, foreigners are more favoured than Maldivians, they earn more, have luxurious rooms to sleep and everything is so perfect for them. We sleep 10-15 men in a room, while foreigners sleep maximum three in a room,” a dismissed former worker at the Conrad resort told Minivan News. ‘’It is very regrettable that we are being mistreated and enslaved in our own country.”

The spokesperson for the group claimed that none of the staff who were given redundancy by the company had deserved to be removed from their posts; having tried to ensure that the “high standards” expected of the resort were being met.

One member of the dismissed group who worked in the resort’s house keeping department alleged that human resources officials at the site turned a blind eye when some staff failed to properly wash towels beyond soaking them in water, drying them off and throwing them onto an office floor.

‘’One day when I was at the house keeping office I was told to wipe out the expiry date of all the mouth wash bottles that has expired,’’ the person claimed. ‘’I told the house keeper that he can’t do that, but I was forced to do it if I wanted to work there.’’

Amongst a list of accusations, the dismissed staff claimed that some senior management figures had  abused their roles by arranging to have the resort’s high-profile underwater restaurant dismiss confirmed bookings so as to accommodate a private dinner for a senior resort employee.

The spokesperson for the group claimed that the company was aware of the restaurant closure, as well as a number of policies it claimed breached rules on safety and employment regulation.

‘’[Local staff] have to test wine, which it violates the Tourism Act. It is also not allowed to have a Maldivian as a barmen, but currently there is a Maldivian barmen at the island,’’ he alleged.

The group’s spokesperson alleged that he and his colleagues had also been asked to open a number of expired yoghurt containers in the main restaurant’s kitchen and to pour them all in to a big bowel to serve for breakfast that morning.

‘’We did it, it was not something related to us or something that would harm us, but we complained to  the management and there was no action taken against it,’’ he said.

Resort response

Addressing the accusations made by its former staff, Conrad Hotels said it preferred not to enter into a “public discussion” concerning the claims. Conrad said it offered several official channels within its organisation that allowed staff to address particular concerns over adherence to company rules and policy during their employment.

The company added that as an international hotel chain, it worked to ensure its employment policies were in line both with Maldivian labour laws and global company standards in order to protect staff at Rangali Island. The resort employed almost three Maldivian workers to each expatriate member of staff, the resort noted.

“The hotel follows employment policies that are consistent with the country’s labour laws and the company’s own standard practices. This includes, but is not limited to fair remuneration, respectful treatment of our team members, training and development opportunities, diversity recognition and fair treatment for all,” stated the company. “It is important to note that as of June 2011, 74 percent of the resort’s team members are Maldivian.”

Conrad also reiterated its claim that the decision to release 29 staff was made based for business reasons – with all members receiving redundancy packages to “help them through the transition.”

Without commenting specifically on the policy of an individual resort, ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim, the Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said the group had not been made aware or been involved in dealing with concerns about discrepancies in the conditions of Maldivian resort workers, as compared to other nationalities.

However, Sim said he believed that the government would not allow Maldivian staff to be treated unfairly and in a disproportionate manner to other nationalities of workers under the conditions of its Employment Act.


Conrad resort claims resolution found to on-site strikes

Strike action at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort was bought to an end last night as staff at the site returned to work following alleged disputes over service charge policy, management have said.

In a statement issued today, the resort, which is part of hospitality conglomerate Hilton Worldwide, claimed that operations were returning to normal after being affected in “a small way” by a number of its staff convening in their quarters on Tuesday (22 March) to call for increases in the amount received from service charges.

As the country continues to review labour laws that would outline policies for striking at resorts, possibly outlawing protests by workers on the “shop floor”, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island said this week’s industrial action had not result in any customers prematurely checking out from the site.

With the wider national Labour Act still awaiting approval in the Majlis, the Conrad resort said that it had attempted to try and open up negotiations with staff following commencement of the strike action on Tuesday evening.

“The hotel respects the rights of all employees to express their points of view in a lawful and non-disruptive manner. As such, team members were invited to discuss the issue with the management team in order to resolve the matter quickly and fairly,” the resort stated. “The staff were unwilling to discuss the matter despite several approaches.”

By yesterday morning (March 23), figures from the Crown Company, which owns the resort in question, as well as representatives from the labour and tourism ministries arrived to discuss the strikers’ grievances – initially without success. However, the company has claimed it was able to find a resolution by 7:00pm on Wednesday evening with staff returning to work “immediately”.

Although the Conrad Rangali Island was unable to provide details to Minivan News of the exact changes it might be making to its operations to conclude the strikes at the time of going to press, the resort claimed in a previous statement that it was willing to review its operations.

“The management’s position is that it is happy to re-evaluate the calculation of the service charge. Additionally, the resort will arrange for independent auditing of accounts to demonstrate that the service charge is distributed in its entirety,” the company said yesterday in a statement.

“The staff had already been informed on Tuesday that salary increases will be offered across the board and are expected to be higher than in previous years following a month-long survey of wage levels in the country.”

‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said following the resolution of the strikes that regulations that would outlaw strike action on resort property were currently under the consideration of the country’s parliament.

Sim claimed that the regulations, expected to be passed as part of a new Labour Act outlining a framework for the nation’s work practices had been drawn up by lawyers along with the assistance of a number of bodies including the President’s Office.

“There is regulation in the works that would govern strikes in the country,” he said. “It has been made very clear in public notifications from the labour ministry that has clarified that ‘wildcat strikes’ should not be tolerated.”

Although the strike regulations are still being reviewed within the Majlis, Sim said that they would likely be passed in their final form as part of a national labour act rather than an individual bill relating to industrial action.

He claimed additionally that the regulations were not related to outlawing strikes, but ensuring instead that industrial action did not take place on the private property of resort owners.

To this end of trying to ensure worker’s rights, Sim said he believed that the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture had already sent details of correct resort grievances procedures to the striking workers, which he claimed had not been followed.

Workers’ groups in the country such as Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) have been openly critical of initial drafts of the strike regulations though, which it claimed were less about regulating industrial action but rather outlawing them altogether.

TEAM president and serving Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Easa has previously claimed that the organisation openly supported regulations that accepted that there has to be a reason to instigate strikes, as well the manner of how they should be conducted.

Back in November, a bill outlining possible standards for strike action was passed to the Majlis’ National Security Committee concerning possible amendments to regulations for industrial action at the country’s resort properties

The bill was initially passed to parliament in August by the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in attempts to try and curb strikes such as those seen last year at Kurumba resort that reduced occupancy rates to zero for a period.

Parliamentary debate over the bill has seen both fierce opposition and support from figures across the tourism industry, who have argued that current unregulated strike action is detrimental to travel income.


Staff strike at Conrad Rangali Island Resort

Management at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort have confirmed that a “number” of it staff have resorted to strike action at the site over alleged disputes with management.

Minivan News understands that Maldives tourism authorities have sent a team to the site to try and resolve the dispute.

In a statement the resort, which is part of the multi-national hospitality group Hilton Worldwide, said that it was working to try and resolve the strikes as quickly as possible, while prioritising the safety and security of employees and guests.

Head of the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM), Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Easa, alleged that some staff at the resort had resorted to the action over concerns about possible discrimination between the earnings of local and expatriate staff.

The resort statement did not confirm any key grievances of staff involved in the strike action.  The company did claim though that all its employees, or “team members” as they are known, received equal service charge payments, along with being offered the fourth highest service charge allocations of resorts operating in the country and various staff amenities including a gym and recreation areas.

Easa said that he believed that the Conrad resort was widely considered a “beautiful” property with a very good management that took care of its staff.  However, he claimed that some staff at the resort were contending that there was an issue of discrimination relating to staff earnings based on nationality. He conceded he did not yet have full details of the strike action.

“From what I understand, the issue has been created by the resort’s general manager not communicating with staff over concerns about discrimination between European and Maldivian staff,” he said.

TEAM said it was therefore calling on the workers involved with the strikes to sit down and find an amicable resolution to potential concerns held by both parties and try to establish any truth in these grievances.

Easa said there had been claims from staff that Maldivian workers had been receiving different salary rates and accommodation standards when compared to their European counterparts.  He added that there were also criticisms that local workers’  services charge payments were being split unevenly on similar grounds.

The TEAM president said that he would therefore look to clarify the current allegations concerning employers striking at the resort and what action could possibly be taken in regards to resolving the dispute.

“We hope that the company will meet with both sides and not just listen to senior management before deciding if the allegations are true or false,” he said.  “However, if employees are wrong in their accusations, we will say they are wrong. Both the employer and the employee have rights under the Maldives constitution.”

In its statement, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island rejected claims that service charges were kept by the property itself or undistributed unevenly, adding that management were proud with the level of staff satisfaction in its annual team member survey.

“The resort has a sector-leading reputation for our team member training programmes. We offer opportunities for promotion and career advancement and wherever possible recruit from within,” the company stated.  “We also have a highly developed employee representation structure to ensure all employees can express their points of view to the management team.”

The statement claimed additionally that management at the site constantly sought to review rates of pay in order to make adjustments based on “current market conditions” for its staff, which are made up of 70 percent Maldivian workers and 30 percent of expatriates from 25 different countries.

“In addition to the service charge allocation, team members receive a range of additional benefits including access to a team member soccer pitch, some of the best team member accommodation in the Maldives, a recreation area, gym, internet café and regular team sporting and social activities,” the statement said.

Back in November, a bill was passed to the Majlis’ National Security Committee concerning possible amendments to regulations for industrial action at the country’s resort properties

The bill was initially passed to pariliament in August by the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) in attempts to try and curb strikes such as those seen last year at Kurumba resort that reduced occupancy rates to zero for a period.

Parliamentary debate over the bill has seen both fierce opposition and support from figures across the tourism industry, who have argued that current unregulated strike action is detrimental to travel income.

Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) Sim Mohamed Ibrahim, said at the time of the debates that that the organisation was not looking to prevent strikes.

However, Ibrahim added that the association was looking to prevent strikes from taking place directly on private resort property.

“No striking on the resort is a fundamental right of the owner,” he said. “You don’t strike on the shop floor.”

An resort employee told newspaper Haveeru that staff were protesting in the staff recreation area “in such a way that it would not cause any disturbance to the tourists.”