MMPRC believes Thumburi project will bring an additional 150,000 tourists per year

Managing Director of the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) Abdulla Ziyath believes the government’s Thumburi integrated resort project will increase visitors to the Maldives by 150,000.

“The market had become quite stagnant, as there were not many new hotels on the way and we were becoming perceived as a place just for five-star tourists,” Ziyath told TTG while at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London.

“This addresses those issues and for the first time enables small businesses to invest; in fact we are actively discouraging the main existing resort owners from being a part of Thumburi”.

The government’s integrated resort project – or ‘vertical tourism’ – is designed to “responsibly diversify the tourism product of the Maldives”, says the MMPRC, after the rapid expansion of guest houses on inhabited islands under the presidency of Mohamed Nasheed between 2008 and 2012.

Some within the industry have expressed fears over the guest house’s impact on the Maldives image as a luxury travel destination, although critics of the new scheme say the multi-ownership guest house island concept will not bring the same benefit to local communities.

Ziyath spoke during the WTM, at which it unveiled the Thumburi project. The event features 146 representatives from 54 countries and is to conclude tomorrow.


Government unveils integrated resort project at World Travel Market

The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) has unveiled its integrated resort development project at the World Travel Market in London this week.

Representatives from the Maldivian government’s tourism promotion department – as well as local tour operators – are taking part alongside 146 representatives from 54 countries.

“A press conference was held on the first day of the fair, where the highlight of the conference was the recently launched Integrated Resort Project which was disseminated to the audience,” read an MMPRC press release.

The new scheme, described as ”communal tourism development” or “vertical tourism” by President Abdulla Yameen is being overseen by the MMPRC.

Sixteen bids were reported to have been received earlier this year for the first 20 plots made available as part of the Thumburi guest house island project – designed to attract small and medium business to an industry dominated by high-end island resorts.

Also present in London this week are representatives of the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), which is acting as an associate partner for the second year.

“This partnership opens new doors for MATATO members,” explained the association – the only Maldivian group to be given associate partner status.

”We believe that the growth and sustainability of our members, local travel agents and tour operators and other industry stake holders, require continued exploration and networking efforts in the emerging markets along with strengthening the presence in the lucrative markets for Maldives.”

The World Travel Market was launched in 1980, and has grown from 350 exhibitors to around 5,000 and 50,000 participants – agreeing deals worth $3.7 billion last year alone.

The Maldives tourism industry welcomed over one million tourists for first time in 2013, with the government expecting the 1.5 million arrivals in 2015.

The MMPRC visited China last month in an effort to further boost the now-dominant Chinese market, which makes up over 30 percent of the market share.

Recent statistics show that visitors from the UK – traditionally one of the largest sources of tourists to the Maldives – rose to 8 percent of the total in the first three quarters of 2014.

“The Maldives delegation will be meeting with the Top Travel Agents and Travel trade media to identify opportunities to build strong ties between two countries and to identify strategies to increase the number of tourist arrivals from UK,” said the MMPRC today.


Maldivian pro-democracy activists hijack World Travel Market twitter hashtag

The official twitter hashtag of the World Travel Market (WTM) in London has been hijacked by Maldivian pro-democracy activists.

The WTM is one of the world’s major annual travel industry expos, attracting 5000 exhibitors from over 184 countries across the globe. The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) has said 143 representatives from 52 Maldivian companies are taking part in the event.

Dozens of Maldivian activists meanwhile on Monday began flooding the #wtm13 hashtag with images of police brutality and allegations against Villa Hotels owner and presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim.

The hijacking was widely reported by international travel media, just days after the UK’s Guardian newspaper broke a story about Maldivian police importing over US$100,000 in riot-control weaponry from a Singapore subsidiary of UK firm Survitec.

The twitter activists accused Gasim of funding the 2012 police mutiny that led to former President Nasheed’s controversial resignation, and then influencing the Supreme Court to annul the results of the September 7 poll despite unanimous positive assessments from local and international election observers.

Shortly after placing third and narrowly missing a place in the run-off against Nashed, Gasim alleged he had been robbed of between 20,000-30,000 votes and declared “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11”.

On October 7 the Supreme Court overturned the poll on the basis of a secret police report not shown to the Elections Commission (EC)’s defence counsel, and issued guidelines for a new poll on October 19 effectively giving candidates the right to veto elections altogether.

“What happened smacks to me of a child who cannot win a board game, so they tip over the board,” UK Conservative Party MP for Redditch, Karen Lumley told British parliament on November 5.

The October revote was forcibly halted by police just hours before polls were due to open. A third attempt is scheduled for Saturday, just days before the end of the presidential term on November 11.

Hashtag hijack

News of the hashtag hijack was quickly picked up international travel media, drawn by contrast tweets depicting costumed expo mascots and colourful conference hall stalls interspersed with bloodied, hosed and pepper-sprayed protesters: “For much of the day about half the Tweets using the official hashtag were from Maldives protesters,” noted one travel website.

“Travel has both a positive impact and a dark underside. And those unpleasant truths are seeping into the polished booths and buffet tables visited by WTM attendees this year, both online and in person,” wrote Samantha Shankman for the Skift travel website.

WTM tweeted distancing itself from the activists, but did not remove the posts: “We would like to apologise to our followers for the misuse of our hashtag by other accounts. We are no way linked to these tweets,” read a post from the expo organisers.

The coverage follows a downbeat assessment of the industry’s economic performance given by the Finance Ministry this week. According the report given to parliament, tourism growth as measured in terms of bed nights declined by 0.1 percent in 2012 following 15.8 percent growth in 2010 and 9.2 percent in 2011.

“The main reason for this was the political turmoil the country faced in February 2012 and the decline in the number of days tourists spent in the country,” read an accompanying statement.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb was not responding at time of press.