Indonesia joins Maldives in withdrawing from New7Wonders competition

Following in the footsteps of the Maldives, Indonesia has officially withdrawn the Komodo National Park from the New7Wonders competition citing doubts about the credibility of the organisers.

During a press conference last week, Indonesia’s Tourism Minister Jero Wacik announced that the decision was taken “because the organisers – the New7Wonders Foundation – have taken actions that are not professional, consistent and transparent.”

According to reports in the Jakarta Post, Wacik said the New7Wonders Foundation was“unprofessional”, “unaccountable” and were “not credible”.

“We have spent around Rp 10 billion (US$1.1 million) on campaign activities over the past three years,” Wacik told the newspaper, claiming that the foundation had subsequently demanded a US$10 million licensing fee and a US$35 million fee to host a ceremony celebrating the competition’s winners.

Also speaking during the press conference, Indonesia’s tourism marketing director Sapta Nirwandar claimed that the New7Wonders foundation did not have an office.

“We sent a letter to the office address in Zurich, but the letter came back to us because the address was not clear,” the Post reported Nirwandar as saying, adding that it was “very strange” for an international organisation involved in million-dollar transactions “not to have a real office”.

New7Wonders has meanwhile announced the launch of a text voting service in Indonesia, allowing locals to vote for Komodo at US$0.12 per text.

The Maldives cabinet withdrew the country from the New7Wonders campaign in May, claiming similar demands for increasingly high fees in order for the Maldives to compete meaningfully for the remainder of the competition.

State Minister for Tourism Thoyyib Mohamed said at the time that the Maldives was withdrawing from the competition “because of the unexpected demands for large sums of money from the New7Wonders organisers. We no longer feel that continued participation is in the economic interests of the Maldives.”

The Maldives had invested substantially less in the campaign than Indonesia – a total of US$12,000 on banners and voting terminals – before the company behind New7Wonders, the ‘New Open World Corporation’ (NOWC), began requesting ‘sponsorship fees’ (‘platinum’ at US$350,000, or two ‘gold’ at US$210,000 each), and the funding of a ‘World Tour’ event whereby the Maldives would pay for a delegation of people to visit the country, provide hot air balloon rides, press trips, flights, accommodation and communications, at a predicted cost of US$500,000.

NOWC had initially levied a US$199 participation fee upon signing of the initial contract in early 2009, and no further costs were explicitly detailed in the contract.

Investigating the company in May, Minivan News confirmed that a ‘New7Wonders Foundation’ was registered in the Swiss canton of Zurich as a charitable foundation, however the contract signed with the Maldives gave NOWC’s address as a law firm in the Republic of Panama.

In response to this story, New7Wonders Spokesperson Eamonn Fitzgerald said the foundation had transferred the commercial operations to its licensing company, New Open World Corporation, “which then runs the commercial aspects.”

In a letter to Minivan News, Fitzgerald insisted that the the Maldives remained in the competition despite the government’s decision.

“The authority to withdraw a participant from the campaign is a decision for New7Wonders alone, not for any government agency. In this respect, New7Wonders adheres to the same principles as FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), organisations that do not tolerate any government interference so as to ensure their independence,” Fitzgerald wrote.

The government responded that “the democratically elected Government of the Maldives is the only legitimate authority to act in the name of the Maldives and its people”, and that its continued use of the Maldives brand by NOWC was “infringing the sovereign rights of the Maldives”.

Following the Indonesian announcement, Minivan News understands from a source familiar with the matter that the tourism authorities of 6-7 other countries have “expressed doubts” about the competition, “but are concerned about losing face.”

Three of Indonesia’s ministers – fisheries, forestry and tourism – acknowledged that the Maldives had led the way, the source said.


Maldives climbs to fourth in “Seven Wonders” competition

The Maldives has climbed to fourth place in a competition to be named as one of a “New Seven Wonders of Nature” after having fallen down the rankings in January this year.

The Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) said it had been working at international travel shows and other events to try and boost its standing in the competition, whose finalists are expected to be announced on November 11 this year by Switzerland-based organiser New Open World Corporation, according to Haveeru.

Along with the Maldives, 28 destinations are competing within the competition, which organisers claim is 90 percent based on international voting and 10 percent on responses from within the host nations themselves.

Back in January, the MTPB had said that the country had fallen to fifth place in the competition after having been previously placed third.

According to the event organisers, the “New Seven Wonders” programme is operated under two distinct arms as both a Foundation and a commercial operation.

Along with the not-for-profit New7Wonders Foundation, the group has claimed to have transferred its commercial operations to its licensing group, New Open World Corporation, which it has said is needed to cover costs.


Maldives falls to fifth in Seven Wonders listing

The Maldives has fallen from third to fifth place on the New Seven Wonders of Nature listing.

Haveeru reported Director of the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) Mohamed Adam as saying that the board was preparing new activities to generate more votes for the Maldives.

“We will participate in several fairs in order to get more votes to the Maldives,” Haveeru reported Adam as saying.

At current pace the MTPD predicts Maldives with finish seventh on the list when voting ends in November 2011.

Only 10 percent of the votes for a seven wonder coming from inside its country are considered – 90 percent must originate from outside the country containing the wonder.

People wishing to vote for the Maldives can do so by calling +44 203 347 0901 (international call) and entering 7718 after the automated message. Votes can also be lodged here.


Maldives to attend Moscow travel exhibition

The Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) has announced the Maldives’ participation in the 17th Moscow International Exhibition Travel and Tourism Fair (MITT) beginning on 17 March, reports Miadhu.

MTPB has said it will promote the Maldives as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The fair, known as Russia’s number one travel exhibition, will be attended by tourism experts, members of the tourism industry and potential tourists.

The Russian market has been a growing and important market to the Maldives. The MTPB says Russian tourists look to take long holidays and approximately 40,000 Russian tourists visited the Maldives in 2009.