The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has issued a statement expressing “serious concern” over what it describes as a “concerted international campaign” against several of the country’s resort operators.
MATI claimed that calls from the Maldives Tourism Advisory (MTA) for tourists to avoid certain properties on the basis of ownership were “libelous in the extreme”, as the allegations against the tourist resort operators “have not been proven either through an investigation or a court of law.”
The MTA website features a ‘traffic light’ system with “red” resorts recently appearing to have been expanded to include an assortment of 18 properties owned by Vice President Waheed Deen and senior figures associated with the new ruling coalition, including Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim, Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Jabir, and Hussain ‘Champa’ Afeef.
MATI claimed that “unsubstantiated charges directed at some resort operators [will] result not only in loss of business at their resorts, but in loss of reputation and standing in international markets and the global community.”
“A call to boycott the resorts could [also] lead to enormous loss of business and lay-off of resort staff and support workers, not to mention those several small businesses that cater to the tourism industry that will be affected.”
The resort body accused the campaigners of “not having the decency to come out in the open” and “hiding behind the safe veil of the internet.”
“It is our belief that the several accusations and charges directed at the operators of resort businesses must be proven in a court of law before these businesses are subject to industrial action or denunciation.”
The MTA yesterday released a statement in response to MATI, emphasising that it was not calling for a boycott but rather “supplementing” existing travel advice from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
“Visitors choosing to be selective and avoiding resorts tainted by the actions of their owners might lead to some loss of business to these resorts, but we are quite convinced that it would not have an overall impact on the economy of the Maldives,” the MTA said in a statement. “Nor would it seriously affect the prospects of employment for Maldivians. This is proven by the government’s own figures showing a healthy increase in tourism arrivals.”
“While MATI mentions investigations of resort owners in a “court of law” it can clearly be seen that the Maldivian judiciary would be an inappropriate institution for such an investigation, given that one of MATI’s senior members (and whose resorts we recommend avoiding) sits on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the body tasked with overseeing the judiciary,” the MTA noted.
“”The only ‘investigation’ that we are aware of at present is the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI). This is deemed to be neither serious, timely nor unbiased by international observers and most Maldivians. No serious efforts have been made to address the deficiencies in this investigation, and they do not involve the resort owners mentioned in the MTA.
“The MTA always carefully considers all the available facts from several sources when recommending resorts to be avoided. There is no necessity to await ‘investigations’ and “courts of law” (as the MATI statement suggests) as MTA recommendations are based on important information that serves to enable visitor choice.”
Quarterly tourism figures published by the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) showed a 3.3 percent rise in visitor arrivals compared to the same period in 2011, however this was lower than the 12.6 percent growth seen in the first quarter of 2011 compared to 2010.
Growth in Chinese arrivals slowed dramatically due to cancelled charter flights, while several of the country’s mainstay markets declined – including Italy, France and the UK. Russian, German, Swiss and Middle Eastern arrivals showed strong increases.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb and former Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa were not responding at time of press.