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Page added on July 14, 2012

Tourism authority’s Twitter campaign “hijacked”, “travel-related farce”, world media reports

Tourism authority’s Twitter campaign “hijacked”, “travel-related farce”, world media reports thumbnail

A social network strategy launched this week to promote the Maldives has been labelled a “travel-related farce” by media sources including Conde-Nast Traveller, while publications such as the Daily Telegraph newspaper report that the focus has been “hijacked” by anti-government protesters.

The scheme, launched on Thursday, was devised to have the country’s recently reintroduced “Sunny Side of Life” slogan become an online trend among Twitter users by playing up the destination as an unparalleled tourism paradise and honeymoon getaway.

However, global news reports soon emerged that “pro-democracy campaigners” were sabotaging the focus by using the “#SunnySideOfLife” hashtag to draw attention to alleged human rights abuses reportedly committed during the last few months by the government of President Mohamed Waheed.

“For example, the majority of the site’s users are using the term to post tweets such as ‘#SunnySideOfLife: Pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear lagoons filled with blood of its citizens who are fighting for democracy’,” the Daily News of New York reported on Thursday.

Tourism authorities in the country have recently targeted the increased use of social media sites like Facebook to more effectively promote the destination.  The promotion plan was adopted on the back of fears that global headlines following the controversial transfer of power in February have had a detrimental impact on the destination’s reputation.

Industry view

Contacted by Minivan News about the implications the week’s global media coverage might have on future social media promotions in the country – as well the more encouraging developments of the “Sunny Side of Life” Twitter campaign – Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb said he was about to board a plane and unable to respond at the time of press.

Speaking before embarking on his flight, Adheeb added that the question of a future direction of social media to promote the destination was something that “required thought”, but he could not elaborate further at the time. Calls to Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal went unanswered.

However, on the official Visit Maldives Twitter Page, the focus remained on encouraging guests at properties such as Bandos Island Resort and Spa to make use of the Twitter to play up the Maldives’ reputation internationally.

MMPRC thanks @bandosmaldives guest and staff for having this event ‪#SunnySideOfLife‬pic.twitter.com/STXG3A0N,” read one of the more recent tweets posted on the Twitter site on Thursday (July 12).

Opposition allegations

In addressing the coverage of the Twitter promotion, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) claimed that it was presently between “a rock and a hard place” in terms of balancing the economic need for preserving tourism in the country, whilst asking tourists to boycott the destination to pressure the government for early elections this year.

President Waheed, who maintains that he was constitutionally sworn into office on February 7 following the resignation of his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed, said that the earliest elections can be held under the constitution is July 2013. Political bodies and organisations including the EU and Commonwealth have recommended that early elections be held this year to bring political stability back to the country.

The MDP alleges that the elected government of former President Mohamed Nasheed was removed from office on February 7 by a “coup d’etat” sponsored by mutinous sections of the police and military.  It claims the action was additionally financed by certain prominent local tourist tycoons, who control significant amounts of the nation’s wealth.

Earlier this month, former President Mohamed Nasheed told the UK-based Financial Times newspaper that he was calling for a blanket boycott of tourism in the country, earning criticism from a number of resort operators that employ a significant amount of local people alongside foreigners at their properties.

Though the opposition party claims to have no direct affiliation with the Twitter stunt, MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the focus indicated young people were adopting a “grass roots” approach to highlight concerns about the present government’s legitimacy.

“There would appear to be no needed for a boycott of tourism with Twitter campaigns like this,” he claimed. “Whose bright idea was this? We are seeing the Maldivian youth raising their voices about democracy.”

Ghafoor contended that with such a high-profile focus seemingly now raising the issue of alleged human rights abuses around the world – the concept of needing a tourism boycott, as previously advocated by Nasheed, was a “lot less relevant”.

He pointed to his own observation of some Chinese tourists this week, who during a visit to Male’, asked local people about the reason for successive days of protests. These protests have at times escalated to violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police.

These clashes have led to allegations and reports of attacks on members of the media both reportedly by police and anti-government protesters, while certain reporters were also criticised for reportedly involving themselves in protests.

“Inevitable”

Fellow MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy added that it was “inevitable” that by turning to popular services like Twitter to promote the destination, the government would open itself up to allegations about police brutality and reported human rights abuses.

“This is not an MDP thing, but people here know very well what is going on and the role of some resort owners in sponsoring this ‘coup’,” he claimed.

Fahmy claimed that despite former President Nasheed’s recent calls for a boycott, the MDP at present was “undecided” if the party would support a blanket boycott or calls to avoid  certain tourism properties in the country.

“We all know that some of the country’s richest people are behind the coup,” he said. “We need a focus that will help the Maldives bring about early elections.”

Despite the party’s claims, UK-based NGO Friends of the Maldives, which had previously been associated with a targeted travel advisory asking tourists steer clear of resorts owned by figures alleged to have a direct roll with brining the present government to power, warned against blanket action.

Friends of Maldives – established in the UK in 2003 during the autocratic rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to focus on human rights issues in the country –  raised concerns against seemingly penalising the entire tourist industry in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“A boycott is a last resort and I don’t think it has reached that stage,” Friends of Maldives founder, David Hardingham told the paper. “It’s easy for people like us to tell tourists not to visit, but it is the people of the Maldives who will suffer – and they are the ones who must decide whether it’s worth it. Any campaign for a boycott needs to be a grass-roots one.”

However, Friends of Maldives said it continued to reject the legitimacy of the present government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, which the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) linked to Mohamed Nasheed has since alleged came to power in February through a “coup d’etat”.

“Jumper”

As of the time of going to press, the official Visit Maldives Twitter service’s last tweet – posted 18 hours ago – read: “Did you know that ‪#Maldives‬ was mentioned in 2008 Jumper movie …‪#SunnySideofLife‬ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt048909 …”

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6 Comments on "Tourism authority’s Twitter campaign “hijacked”, “travel-related farce”, world media reports"

  1. Dr. Bondibai on Sun, 15th Jul 2012 12:00 PM 

    Dear tourists please do no visit Maldives, the current coup government of Maldives is anti-western and pro islamist Taliban. Please spread the word. The so called ruling party coalition Adalat Party is going to implement stoning for adultery, amputation of hands and legs of thief’s and chopping of the neck, just like the Saudi Arabians. Maldives has become an islamist hell hole, its no longer safe to visit maldives.
    Bye bye tourism. 

  2. Shahid on Sun, 15th Jul 2012 12:32 PM 

    The illegal government can not spin their way out of this via twitter and facebook. They used guns to gain office not the vote! Social media does not lie.

  3. Wives and Concubines on Sun, 15th Jul 2012 12:56 PM 

    Mr.Bondibai is right. Tourists should not be coming here giving their vacation money to a taliban government which aims to make the Maldives the hub of terror activities in South Asia.

  4. Ali Shiyam on Sun, 15th Jul 2012 10:44 PM 

    Don’t make this sound like a religious hell hole. It is in fact the Resort owners who have slept with the fanatics, used, abused them and now wants to throw away the religious extremists of the country.

    The Resort and business owners did this for their own selfish greed. The beardees, talibans, qaedees, what ever, are prostitutes here, playing with the gullible minds of the Maldivians. For the resort owners, they are the perfect tool.

    Maldives is not a religious hell hole and majority of the Maldivians do not want ANY association with the Talibans and beardees. We want a progressive nation without the shackles of the religion. A progressive nation, by default means, the richer will have to be taxed more and social order brought to the nation. Equality. Justice. Corruption-less…er thats pushing, but at least minimal corruption.

    The current resort owners, rich businessmen, cannot afford to lose a cent in the form of tax. Hence, the coup.

    While we are at sighting the culprits within the crosshairs, do not shoot ourselves in the foot. Go for a quick election and get this over with. Do not scare away the tourists.

  5. Dhivehi Gaumu on Mon, 16th Jul 2012 9:20 AM 

    Ask your Maldivian friends, travel agent, resort Manager or resort staff whether the resort owner was involved in this coup. we have a coup d’état spearheaded by anti-western islamists and former Dictator Gayoom family to gain power and weaken democratization of maldives.

    If you are visiting, ask for a safe resort list, resort owners not involved in coup.

  6. yaujooj maujooj on Tue, 17th Jul 2012 10:09 AM 

    30 years of tyranny was gone with the wind following 2008 first-ever-multiparty elections, but has returned again on 7 Feb 2012 by means of a police/army led coup to haunt Maldivian citizens again! Dr. Nappy Waheed is just a string puppet! The great dictator pulls the strings!!


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