Tourists stranded in Maldives in liveaboard scams

Dozens of tourists are stranded each year in the Maldives by scams involving liveaboards, harming the country’s reputation among visitors, boat owners say.

Scammers use fraudulent websites to collect payments on liveaboards without the owner’s knowledge, leaving tourists stranded at the airport.

Others sell holidays on luxury cruisers, but when tourists arrive in the Maldives, transfer them to low-grade boats.

Boat owners are speaking out about the problem for the first time, saying they decided to do so out of frustration over a lack of action against the fraudsters.

Some 81 liveaboards — boats on which tourists stay for several nights, also known as safari boats — operate in the Maldives, offering surfing and diving trips, some with luxury accommodation.

A safari boat owner, who asked not to be named, said an Indian dive tour operator alerted him on March 19 to a Maldivian company selling a holiday on his boat without his knowledge.

He told Minivan News the government has failed to take action on scammers.

“This is very destructive and tarnishes the Maldives’ image,” he said, calling on the ministry to suspend licenses and blacklist fraudulent tour operators.

Amir Mansoor, the owner of the luxury liveaboard Carpe Diem, also said that liveaboard scams are frequent.

“This is very concerning, even if it’s two or fifty tourists a year, and affects the Maldives’ image,” he said.

Deputy tourism minister Hussain Lirar, however, denied any knowledge of fraud, but said the government would take action through law enforcement agencies against scammers.

The anonymous liveaboard owner said that at least 88 Russian and German tourists were stranded in November 2013 after a scam, and said he had rescued some tourists from the group.

The Liveaboard Association of Maldives (LAM) this week said it had received complaints from foreign tour operators, mostly in India and Hong Kong, involving fake bookings and operators collecting payments without offering a service.

“The scams involve fraudulent websites claiming to be authorized travel agents offering cheap liveaboards,” the organization said, following the March 19 alert from the Indian tour operator.

In the email obtained by Minivan News, the Indian company said it had been saved from fraud by its contacts in the Maldives and urged LAM to take action to ensure “those advertising as Maldivian agents do not defraud gullible tourists.”

LAM subsequently advised holidaymakers and tour operators to be wary of rock bottom prices in the Maldives and to book through agents listed on its website or reputable travel companies listed by the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators.

There are currently 1,367 beds available on safari boats in the Maldives, often costing hundreds of dollars a night.

A Hong Kong-based tour operator, which says it sends 2000 guests to the Maldives every year, said a tour operator called Poseidon Tours in 2012 stranded several guests “desperately in Malé without any excuse,” according to leaked emails.

Although the tourism ministry denied knowledge of scams, the emails show the operator wrote to the ministry and LAM throughout 2012 and 2013 asking them to penalise the scammer. The company threatened to go public with the scandal and asked for a response “before I do something that might hurt all of us.”

“It was the not the first case to our company and on and off we heard that other agents/guests were having similar experiences. I don’t think that this is a good reputation to your country,” the operator said.

The operator reimbursed its clients, but Minivan News was unable to confirm whether the government had taken action against Poseidon Tours.


Lithuanian tourist drowns near Hulhumalé

A 22-year-old Lithuanian tourist has drowned close to Hulhumalé, reports Haveeru.

The man is said to have gone for a swim at around 2:45am (January 31) while under the influence of alcohol.

Police have said that the man’s body was retrieved by a deckhand on the safari boat ‘Ari’ which was docked in Hulhumalé harbour.

His body was taken to Hulhumalé hospital.

Source: Haveeru


Chinese tourist seriously injured in Malé bike accident

Additional reporting by Ismail Humaam Hamid

A Chinese tourist has sustained serious injuries after being struck by a motorcycle in the capital city Malé yesterday.

Police have confirmed that the incident happened at 2:45pm as the tourist was attempting to take a photograph of the People’s Majlis on Medhuziyaari Magu.

After being taken to ADK hospital yesterday (September 20), Minivan News understands that the man – named by local media as Jiyathai Joo, aged 50 – has been flown to Sri Lanka for treatment of head injuries.

The motorcyclist involved in the incident – a 19-year-old identified in local media as Malé resident – has been arrested by police. He suffered only minor injuries in the collision.

Chinese tourists have become common increasingly common in the capital in recent years, with day trips offering a change of pace from the relaxed island resorts elsewhere in the atoll.

The rapidly expanding Chinese market now accounts for around 30 percent of the one million plus visitors to the country each year.

President Abdulla Yameen last week noted his desire to see further expansion of Chinese visitors during the historic visit of Chinese President Xi Jinpeng.

The occasion also saw the signing of a number of MoUs including one establishing a joint mechanism on dealing with the issue of safety and security of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives.

The most frequent source of accidents involving Chinese tourists involve snorkelling incidents, with the government having previously acknowledged the need to improve safety regulations in this respect.


Tourist lost while snorkeling found dead

A French tourist, aged 33 years, who was reported missing during snorkeling on Wednesday has been discovered dead this morning.

The tourist was staying at Filitheyo Island Resort in Faafu Atoll.

Police revealed that the body was found 30 meters underwater at 9:00 am this morning.


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.


British tourist drowned while snorkelling

The body of a British tourist – missing since Saturday – has been found off the coast of Biyaadhoo resort in South Malé atoll.

The 65 year old man who had not been seen since going to snorkel alone is presumed to have drowned. His body has been taken to Maafushi Health Centre.

A recent spate of drowning incidents in the Maldives – more often including Chinese tourists – last month prompted the Ministry of Tourism to consult industry stakeholders and relevant government authorities regarding ways to improve safety.

A questionnaire was subsequently sent to all tourist establishments to gather more information on these incidents before a forum is held later this month.


Chinese tourist drowns in Fulhadhoo

A 30 year old Chinese tourist staying at a guesthouse with his wife in the island of Fulhadhoo in Baa Atoll drowned on Tuesday morning.

Police have stated that the man was already dead when taken to the Fulhadhoo Health Centre.

They were made aware of the drowning after his wife had sought help from the island community on Tuesday, mid-morning.


25 year-old Chinese tourist found dead in sea

The body of a 25 year-old Chinese tourist staying at Alsana Velaavaru Resort was found today floating in the sea near the resort, police have reported.

Police said that they received information about the incident today at 11:05am.

The body was discovered by a staff member at the resort, police said.

According to police, doctors said the man was already dead when the body was taken out of the water.

Tourist deaths – usually while snorkeling – are disproportionately higher among Chinese tourists, which now account for a majority of Maldives tourist arrivals, compared to the traditional European market.

The body has been brought to Male’ and police are investigating the case.


British media identify tourist drowned off Summer Island

British newspapers the Sun and the Daily Mail have identified the tourist killed at the Summer Island Village resort earlier this week as 34 year old Stuart Chance from Lincolnshire.

Mr Chance is reported to have travelled to the Maldives with his parents, who are regular visitors to the resort in Male’ Atoll. He is said to have drowned whilst snorkelling on Tuesday (August 20).

The Foreign Office is reportedly looking into Mr Chance’s death, though local police reportedly told Mr Chance’s family that his death was being treated as an accident.

Snorkelling incidents are the most common cause of tourist fatalities in the Maldives.