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.


President Nasheed informs South Korean industries on investment in the Maldives

As part of his visit to South Korea President Mohamed Nasheed met with executives of the country’s business sector, fisheries industry and the media.

In his meeting with representative from the business sector held at the Intercontinetal Hotel in Seoul on Friday, the president informed them of the business and investment opportunities in the Maldives.

President Nasheed spoke of the potential investment opportunities in green energy and housing projects in the Maldives.

He noted South Korea was a growing market for the Maldivian tourism industry and an important partner in the fisheries sector.

The president also met with the president of Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Hwan-eik Cho at the KOTRA Centre to discuss investment in the Maldives, especially in the fisheries, energy and housing sectors.

According to the President’s Office, a number of South Korean companies expressed interest in investing in the Maldives.

He then met with the Director General of Distant Water Fisheries Bureau of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Korea, Lee Cheol Woo, and the Chariman of Korean Overseas Fisheries Association, Kyung-Nam Chang.

Present at the meeting were also representatives from Sajo Industries and Dongwon Industries, two South Korean companies working in the fisheries and business secotr.

President Nasheed spoke of the challenges faced by the Maldivian fishing industry, and said the government wanted to expand the overseas market for fish products so foreign companies could buy fish directly from Maldivian fishermen.

After his meetings, the president met with South Korean press and spoke mostly on the environmental challenges faced by the Maldives and his commitment to bring the issues of climate change to the international stage.

President Nasheed concluded his visit to South Korea on Friday.


President Nasheed meets his South Korean counterpart

President Mohamed Nasheed met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak last Thursday as part of his visit to Seoul for the B4E Summit.

President Nasheed and President Lee discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and spoke of ways to strengthen mutual cooperation.

President Nasheed said South Korea and the Maldives could work together especially in the areas of fisheries and the environment.

He also spoke of business and investment opportunities in the Maldives.

President Lee commended the Maldivian president for his efforts to bring the issue of climate change to a global platform and for his role in bringing democracy to the Maldives.


President Nasheed calls for a global price on carbon

Speaking at the Business for Environment Global Summit (B4E), President Mohamed Nasheed said the price of carbon should be global because we live in a global economy.

President Nasheed said stating a price on carbon would “unleash tremendous change” and develop a market for cleaner technologies.

“Some countries are still arguing development means becoming dirtier and dirtier as they become richer and richer,” the president said, noting that the goal for carbon-neutrality “will soon need to be done everywhere else.”

President Nasheed said although becoming carbon neutral and combating climate change was urgent, he had faith that human ingenuity would “allow us to flourish indefinitely.”

He said in this time of change there would be uncomfortable uncertainties as well as new opportunities, and urged the world to “leave behind the dirty economy of the 20th century.”

President Nasheed and the First Lady Laila Ali are currently in Seoul, in the Republic of South Korea, for the B4E Summit.

President Nasheed has been awarded the UN’s ‘Champion of the Earth Award’ for his work to combat climate change and will receive his trophy tonight in Seoul.


UN makes President Mohamed Nasheed ‘Champion of the Earth’

President Mohamed Nasheed has been awarded the UN Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Seoul, Republic of South Korea.

The awards were held in conjunction with the Business for Environment Summit (B4E), which is being attended by representatives of business, government and civil society who are working to promote a greener economy.

The award celebrates those who are encouraging a low carbon, resource efficient 21st century. The UN awards individuals “who embody commitment and vision towards environmental leadership through their action and their influence.”

One senior government official described Nasheed’s award as “quite a big deal – basically, the only thing that trumps this as an environment prize is a Nobel Peace prize, which they occasionally give for environmental causes.”

UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, said “President Nasheed is not only an articulate voice for the vulnerable and the poor facing the challenges of global warming, but a politician who is showcasing to the rest of the world how a transition to climate neutrality can be achieved and how all nations, no matter how big or how small, can contribute.”

President Nasheed said he was “delighted to accept this prize on behalf of the whole of Maldives. It goes to show that by doing the right thing, a small country can make a big impact on the world stage.”

President Nasheed also spoke of the damage industrialised countries have done to the environment, but said “given the opportunity, I believe that we would have done exactly the same.”

“We’re no better humans than the industrialised world. We’ve not been able to destroy as much as them…because we did not get the opportunity to destroy as much,” he said.

“We’ve destroyed whatever we can, and they destroyed whatever they can. Of course the magnitude of destruction by us is far less than the magnitude of destruction by others.”

He said the fact other countries had created more pollution than the Maldives did not mean they carry the burden of fixing the problem, and said that is why he is aiming to make the Maldives carbon neutral by 2020.

President Nasheed assured carbon neutrality is not only possible, but “it’s economically viable, financially feasible and there is no reason why we shouldn’t do it.”

He said the idea to be carbon neutral was “based very much on solid economic arguments.”

The president noted he doesn’t think it’s “humanly possible to do nothing about the environmental impacts” and was hopeful people could “bring the earth to it’s natural balance.”

“We still have time and we should act as quickly as possible,” he said.

He was awarded in the category of Policy and Leadership for his role in promoting the fight against climate change in forums such as last year’s Copenhagen COP15 Climate Change Summit, and for his efforts to raise awareness on climate change at a global level.

The UN commended him for his campaign to protect the coral reefs of the Maldives and for urging other countries to follow his initiative to turn the Maldives into the first carbon-neutral country by 2020.

President Nasheed ended his speech by saying “the climate crisis threatens us all. What happens to the Maldives today, happens to the rest of the world tomorrow. We are all Maldivians now.”

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said “the president is delighted and is saying he is humbled. He thinks the award gives a very good name to the country.”

President Nasheed will receive his trophy at a gala dinner tonight in Seoul.

President Nasheed was one of the six winners of the prestigious awards, chosen from the worlds of government, science, business and entertainment. The other five winners were Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana; Prince Mostapha Zaher, Afghanistan’s Director General of the National Environmental Protection Agency; Taro Takahashi, Japanese earth scientist; Zhou Xun, Chinese actress; and Vinod Khosala, a green energy entrepreneur and co-founder of Sun Microsystems from the USA.


President and First Lady depart for South Korea

President Mohamed Nasheed and First Lady Laila Ali departed for South Korea last night.

They will be participating in the Business for Environment Global Summit (B4E Summit) which will take place in Seoul from 21-23 April.

The summit allows for dialogue and business-driven action for the environment, with some of the topics on the agenda being resource efficiency, renewable energy and climate change policies and strategies.

During their visit, President Nasheed will also meet with the President of South Korea, Lee Myung-Bak, to discuss ways of strengthening diplomatic relations between the two countries.


President to attend B4E summit in South Korea

President Mohamed Nasheed has confirmed his participation in the upcoming B4E Business for Environment Global Summit in Seoul, Republic of South Korea, from 21-23 April, reports Miadhu.

The summit is an international summit for dialogue and business-driven action for the environment, with some of the topics on the agenda being resource efficiency, renewable energy and climate change policies and strategies.

CEOs and senior executives will join politicians, international agencies and NGOs to discuss bridging the fight against climate change and the business world.