MNDF divers retrieve body of missing Korean tourist

Police have confirmed that the body of a Korean tourist reported missing yesterday (December 17) from Meedhuhparu resort in Raa Atoll has been discovered today in a joint operation conducted with staff at the property and a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) dive team.

Authorities have said that the body of the deceased, identified as 32 year-old Korean national Dohwan Oh, has been transported to Male’ and is now awaiting repatriation.

In a statement issued today, the Maldives Police Service has said that the deceased was discovered 20 metres underwater in the area where he was first reported missing following a snorkelling excursion with his wife.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef could not confirm when exactly the body would be repatriated at the time of press.

Tourist safety

Addressing the growing influx of tourists from Asian destinations coming to the Maldives, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor today pledged in local media to enforce stricter safety measures across the industry to try and cut down potential snorkelling incidents.

Adheeb stated that the industry must evolve and adapt to the changing market geared increasingly towards Asian visitors who were generally not as adept at swimming as tourists from more established markets.  According to the tourism minister, this evolution includes increasing ocean awareness for tourists while monitoring and strengthening existing regulations.

“If such incidents keep repeating it is a major concern. It will adversely affect our tourism. We need to change the services being provided with the market,” Adheeb told local media.

Missing Chinese national

Meanwhile, Police Spokesperson Haneef said today he was unable to comment over whether the case of another tourist who went missing from the Bandos Island Resort and Spa earlier this month – initially suspected to be a snorkelling incident – was presently being treated as a criminal investigation.

Immigration authorities confirmed Saturday (december 15) that a Chinese national allegedly linked to the disappearance of a tourist staying at a Maldives holiday resort had fled the country, defying a court-mandated travel ban issued Wednesday (December 12).

Local media had previously reported that the husband of Chinese tourist Song Yapin,who went missing from the Bandos Island Resort and Spa on December 6, had accused a fellow Chinese national staying at the property of murdering his wife.

Haneef said that as police investigations were ongoing into the incident, no details on the nature of its work could be given at present.

The MNDF confirmed on Saturday that the search to locate the missing Chinese national was continuing.  However, MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem said that the country’s coastguard had presently ceased sending out dive teams to explore local waters.

“We will not be calling off our operation until the person is found, but we will be amending our operation on a daily basis,” Colonel Raheem said at the time.


Maldives hosts networking event for Asian travel reps

The Maldives is currently hosting representatives from over 30 tour and travel companies from across Asia, as part of a ‘Discover Your Island’ campaign to increase tourism from these countries.

The representatives were flown to Male’ by Singapore Airlines, while airport developer GMR and the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) set up a networking event with local resort and tour operators at Nasandhura Palace Hotel.

Speaking at the launch of the event, MD of the MMPRC Simon Hawkins observed that tourism arrivals had grown 15 percent year on year, and Maldives was expecting to reach one million visitors a year by November 2012.

“We currently spend US$2 million to bring in one million visitors. By comparison Indonesia spends US$70 million to bring in seven million,” he said.

The Maldives had historically based its marketing strategy on the twin drawcards of sun and sand, but need to differentiate itself given increasing competition with other destinations offering the same attributes, he said.

“One island one resort means that in the Maldives you can have a three star resort within several hundred metres of a six star resort, and everyone is happy and satisfied,” he said, explaining that most other beach destinations had roads, hawkers and crowded beaches.

“In the Maldives [tour and travel] operators have a hundred islands to choose from.”

In spite of the jet-lag, representatives spent the better part of two hours exchanging business cards with local resorts and travel operators,, reviewing services and exploring new opportunities.

Several representatives expressed interest in Hawkin’s suggestions for Maldives tourism, such as an increased focus on the high quality dining offered by many resorts and safari operators, and emphaised that individualising the customer’s experience was a priority.

Marketing and communications managers at the event meanwhile said that growing interest from the Asian market was driving their plans for the future. But other resort representatives indicated that adapting to emerging markets had to be achieved without alienating existing, established markets.

“The new Asian demand is very important, but the resorts that were designed to suit European travelers are trying to find a balance,” said Reethi Rah Sales Executive, Stephen Cordebas. “We don’t want European guests, especially those who come regularly, to feel like the whole package is changing to suit a new market.”


President appoints Korean pop singer honorary consul of Maldives in Korea

President Mohamed Nasheed has appointed 64 year-old Korean pop singer Yoon Hyung-ju as honorary consul of the Maldives in Korea.

A report in Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, one of the country’s largest publications with a circulation of 2.2 million, claimed that Nasheed had offered the position to Hyung-ju when the singer visited the country at the government’s invitation from February 21-23.

The President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair confirmed to Minivan News that Hyung-ju had been offered the position, “although the paperwork has not been completed yet.”

Hyung-ju, who is currently writing a song called ‘Save the Maldives’ for distribution across Asia and other parts of the world, told Chosun Ilbo that he wanted to let people in Korea know about the environmental challenges faced by the Maldives.

“I’ve long wanted to be a diplomat, and the dream came true at a late age,” Hyung-ju said.

“The reason I quit medical school when I was young wasn’t that I wanted to focus on my singing career but because I wanted to have a free-spirited life, travelling around the world.”

Hyung-ju said he had been introduced to the Maldivian Foreign Affairs officials when the diplomats visited Korea last year. It was these officials who had urged the President to make Hyung-ju an honorary consul, he claimed.

“Many people know the Maldives only as a tourist destination, but it is suffering from a number of difficulties. I will devote my remaining life to be of help to them,” the singer said.

Zuhair said that having a popular figure in Korea as honorary consul could “highlight Maldivian values and culture for would-be visitors.”

The job, he said, was unpaid and did not come with a diplomatic passport, although it “would include some privileges.”

South Korea is a major Asian tourism market for the Maldives, along with Japan and more recently, China. Minivan News understands that the Maldives is currently assessing whether to participate in this year’s World Expo, to be held in Korea.

President Nasheed’s previous appointees to the post of honorary consul include David Hardingham, founder of UK-based NGO Friends of Maldives.