Visit Maldives Year: so far lackluster

  • Severe criticism over Visit Maldives Year
  • No major events planned for this year
  • MMPRC says more activities are planned

Following last year's Golden Jubilee celebrations, this year is marked as the Visit Maldives Year. The target is to bring a radical change to the country's tourism. So far the Visit Maldives Year has been, for the lack of a better word, lackluster. The voices of tourism promotion is silent.

"We do not know what is being carried out. There is nothing different. Taking part in fairs, taking photos in fairs. No special actions had been taken for the visitors coming in for the Visit Maldives Year," a tourism company owner said on the condition of anonymity.

This year when the country became the host nation for ITB Berlin, ads on the nation graced BBC prime time. Then came ITB. Maldives as the host nation came into the limelight. This was followed by the catamaran journey around Maldives carried out by local sailor Gabbe.

Gabbe's journey across the Maldives was organized by an independent party. This journey was declared as a Visit Maldives Year initiative by the Ministry. This was an initiative that literally "fell into the lap" of Ministry executives, it became part of the official events calendar. Gabbe concluded his trip on the day ITB opened. There was no mention of Gabbe's journey in the Fair. Then we saw the welcome wagon to mark the arrival of the 500000th visitor.

Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) said many activities had been planned for this year as part of the Visit Maldives Year. MMPRC said a special drawing competition, environment awareness campaigns and a surfing competition will be held in September.

MMPRC Deputy Managing Director Mohamed Adam (Mode) said the surfing competition is an internationally recognized competition.

"We [MMPRC] is organizing the tournament," Mode said.

Tourism industry professionals have strongly criticized for the lack of promotion over the Visit Maldives Year.

Capital Travel's owner Yoosuf Riffath (Capital Riffath) said there have been no major activities carried out to mark the Year. He said the Ministry had to work in collaboration with tour operators to increase occupancy rates as the country's tourism is dependent on high end clients. Riffath said it was questionable whether the goals of Visit Maldives Year were achieved.

"Why can't we hold a special marketi3ng event? We're not doing anything. All we do is go to fairs, distribute pamphlets," Riffath said.

He said Sri Lanka had a solid plan to develop tourism with much of the initiative was spearheaded by the Government. This, he said, was not seen in the Maldives.

"Sri Lanka targeted for three million tourists. We do not have a target or work," he said.

Riffath said that he did not see a strategic plan to promote tourism. Sometimes, he said the country participated in fairs yielded little value to the country's tourism sector.

"We do not have a plan. We only go to fairs. Look at what happened last? Maldives took part in a fair when the whole of Europe was on red alert over the France attacks. Why? Market plan is poor. We all know Europeans will not come this summer, so why go there?," Riffath said.

However, MMPRC DMD Mode said the fair in France was a successful one for the country.

"The negative publicity has now become positive. We believe that in the coming days the arrivals from France will increase," Mode said.

He also said the fairs held in India, aimed at their secondary markets, will yield results.

"Before we used to participate in Mumbai and other cities. But this time its different. We are advertising in other fairs as well," Mode said.

Maldives is one of the few nations with clear seas and beautiful beaches. We can focus on developing water sports as a category. This is yet to become a reality. The Ministry could arrange for charter flights in collaboration with the resorts and arrange for a special rate for various promotions. However, all we see is the work carried out by the resorts on their own.

"Check how many resorts feature the Visit Maldives logo. Check how many resort websites feature the logo. This shows a failure in promoting tourism," a tour operator said on the condition of anonymity.

Tourism Ministry itself had failed to promote the year. The Minister himself is not PR savvy and not media friendly. Normally, Tourism Ministers by nature are social individuals, a force in promoting tourism.

"Local good press circulates on social media, which then reaches to the international audience. We have restrictions on that. That is done only by MMPRC. They only have the small press from fairs. No difference," the tour operator said.

This is the best time and opportunity to advertise the tourism sector. The Visit Maldives Year is so far lackluster, isn't it not?