Maldives aims to boost Australian tourism with roadshow

The ‘Dive into Maldives’ roadshow kicked off yesterday (May 26) in Australia, with the objective of boosting Australian tourism in Maldives.

Organised by the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), ten representative partners from the tourism industry of Maldives are participating in the roadshow together with the corporation.

According to an established resort manager, the Maldives is still a relatively unknown destination in Australia, due to little exposure from tourism operators.

“Many people [in Australia] still don’t know where it is. People are hearing about it, but there is limited public information,” the source told Minivan News.

“We have seen some growth,” the industry source continued, “they have a lot of their own islands, like Bali and Thailand that are cost effective, but now they’re looking for the next destination.”

According to the MMPRC, the roadshow offers a platform for the Maldives to establish direct contact with the Australian travel trade.

It is also an opportunity for the Australian travel trade to receive the latest updates regarding the Maldives, as well as the chance to directly meet the representatives of some of the Maldives’ most popular hotels, resorts, and travel agents who are participating in the roadshow.

An overwhelming response was received from the Australian travel trade for the Maldives roadshow participation, indicating their level of interest in the destination, according to a press release from the MMPRC.

Visits from Australian tourists made up 1.4 per cent of the visitors to the Maldives up to April of this year, and a total of 16,913 visitors from Australia visited Maldives last year – a growth of 38.1% compared to the previous year.

The roadshow will be held in three major cities – Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth – for three consecutive days, and will finish tomorrow (May 28).

Similar roadshows were held in China in 2012, following the explosion in Chinese tourist arrivals.

The main aims of the tour in China was to build confidence in the Maldives as a destination as well as to portray the country as an investment opportunity.

In 2011, China became the market leader in terms of visitors to the country, when the number of visitors from China surpassed those from Britain, reaching 198,000.

Since then, by individual market performances, China has remained the overall market leader to the Maldives, making up over 26% of shares by the end of April 2014.


Akon’s Supafest postponed “at least six weeks”

Akon’s Supafest show in Malé has been postponed two days before the concert was to take place, due to “technical and security concerns of the artist” according to the show’s Sri Lankan event managers Platinum Entertainment.

Platinum Entertainment said most of the equipment needed for the show, such as the stage, LED panels, and technical staff will not be able to make it to Malé in time for the scheduled concert. But they offered assurances  that since “some equipment worth more than $100,000 has arrived to the Maldives,” it is “straight proof that the event is scheduled to go on.”

The show’s delay comes shortly after Maldives police arrested the Sri Lankan organiser of the Boney M concert for fraud, and the government decided to take over running running the show itself.

Akon’s concert has been controversial from the start. Platinum Entertainment first tried to send the star to Sri Lanka, but the government refused him entry into the country because the content of one of his videos was deemed offensive to Buddhist tastes.

He was also initially denied a visa to Australia and missed a performance in Adelaide, but was allowed into the country in time for the Melbourne concert.

When Akon was denied entry to Sri Lanka, Platinum Entertainment received permission from the Maldivian government to host the concert in Male’ and joined forces with local event organisers, Highrise Entertainment, to run the event on 23 April.

Everything was set up for the show to proceed – posters, tickets, government approval and many eager fans billed it as  “the biggest concert ever in the Maldives.”

However since the show was announced, there have been complaints from the public and the Islamic Ministry concerning Akon’s lyrics, and especially his performance last year where he simulated sex on stage with a young girl during a show in the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago.

Ali Furushan from Highrise Entertainment said they had difficulty bringing in the equipment, which was being shipped from Sri Lanka, Singapore and Australia. He added that because “it’s the first international event, we didn’t want to do a half-job of it,” so they decided to reschedule the show instead.

He said there were also security concerns from Akon’s management, who were worried about the barricade system.

“The barricades at the show are not interlocking ones,” he said.

Furushan said there had been no concerns regarding the complaints from the Islamic Ministry, saying it was “mostly the technical part” that had forced the organisers to postpone the concert.

Platinum Entertainment will be refunding tickets starting from 12:00pm on 22 April through a hotline (330 7898) and at the Highrise office. They are also refunding money to the show sponsors, “even though they have fully agreed to stick with the event.”

Furushan said they are returning the money to the sponsors because they don’t have a confirmed date yet for the concert, but when they confirm the date, they will start all over again.

“Then we have to re-do all the print material and bring all the equipment back,” he said, noting they had already spent US$2,500 on printing materials alone.

“It’s a big financial loss for the company,” he said, adding that insurance would not cover their losses.

Platinum Entertainment has said because the concert is a multi-national show, “rescheduling will take a minimum duration of six weeks” and they will announce the new date when it has been set.

Furushan confirmed it will take a minimum of six weeks for Akon’s schedule to clear up again. “He’s pretty booked up,” he said, noting he has upcoming concerts in Congo, New York and Los Angeles.

“We hope to have the concert just before the FIFA World Cup,” he said.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair said the main issues were security concerns from Akon’s management.

He said Akon’s management had “requested the government to assure them of security arrangements from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).”

Zuhair said the concerns for security arose “after certain Islamic scholars and State Minister [for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Ahmed Shaheem Ali Saeed] complained about Akon’s explicit lyrics.”

However he assured “the government will stand firm. The permits have been issued, the president is delighted and has expressed hope that everyone who goes to see Akon has a good time.”

Zuhair added it was a good opportunity for the Maldivian companies sponsoring the event, and it would “hopefully encourage other international stars to come to the Maldives.”

Many young people who Minivan News spoke to claimed they had bought tickets ““not because we like Akon, but to support the event so more artists will come to the Maldives,” one concert-goer said.

Hearing of the show’s postponement, he said: “I am very angry. It’s music! It’s supposed to be everywhere. It can’t be stopped just because someone doesn’t like it.”

He said he would definitely get a refund if Akon can’t come, but will hold on to his tickets for a while.

Akon has meanwhile made a video apologising to all his Maldivian fans for the postponement. It can be seen on the event’s Facebook page.


Government to host Boney M concert after Sri Lankan organiser arrested for fraud

A Sri Lankan man is being held by police for charges of fraud connected with the recently postponed Boney M concert.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed the Sri Lankan national has been in police custody since Thursday and will be taken to court later this evening.

The Mega International Music Fiesta, which was scheduled to take place at the Galolhu National Stadium in Malé on 14 April, was being organised by Pro Maldives Inc Ltd (also known as Pro Models) in partnership with Sri Lankan company ‘Rokomaestro Inc USA’.

The event was cancelled at the last minute and managing director of Pro Models Mohamed Nizam told media although they had not received any pressure or complaints, the show had to be postponed and there would be a full refund for people who had already bought tickets.

Tickets were sold at Rf 250 and 500 (US$19.5 and US$39).

Minivan News was unable to find a website, business registration or contact details for any company called ‘Rokomaestro Inc USA’ in Sri Lanka.

A ‘completely new show’

The original show would have starred disco legends Boney M and featured British reggae legends Aswad and North American rapper Bubba Sparxxx.

The Maldives Entertainment Company Ltd, backed by the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports, has now taken over planning and executing the event, which will be held on 26 April in Dharubaaruge.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said the concert was postponed because “the agency in charge of delivering the stars here had some technical difficulties.”

He said Boney M cancelled the show because of these “technical difficulties”. Zuhair said Pro Models then “appealed to the government for help” and the government agreed because they felt it would be “good for the country.”

He added refunds were being given for those who bought the original tickets.

Minister for Human Resources, Youth and Sports, Hassan Lateef, said the original show was “a flop” because the companies in charge of organising the event “couldn’t bring [Boney M] down to the Maldives.”

“There was not enough communication with Boney M management,” Lateef said, “so [Boney M] cancelled.”

He said he had no suspicion that the previous organisers were playing a scam on ticket buyers, and added it was “a lack of trust” on the part of Boney M management that stopped the show from taking place on its original date.

Lateef said because tickets had been sold and the public had the expectation of seeing the show, “the government intervened” and Boney M’s appearance has been confirmed for 26 April.

He added the agreement is being sent to Boney M management for signing today.

“A lot of things were not arranged properly,” he said, noting that advanced payments were not made and the event organisers had trouble in getting the members to the Maldives.

Lateef said the ministry had not received any complaints about the Boney M concert and added, “I have received calls from government officials… a lot of people have made bookings.”

He acknowledged “it’s not good for the government to host a show,” but assured the government has no intention of hosting other events in the future. “Because of how things went, we had to intervene,” he said.

Lateef also noted this is “a totally new show”, distinct from the original ‘International Fiesta’, and new tickets are required.

“I heard the [original] tickets have been refunded,” he said, and advised people to buy tickets for the new show “as soon as possible” as there is limited seating in the new venue.

The new show, which will feature an original member of Boney M, will feature a local band, but he said the local artists have still not been selected.