Maldives government 'looking for private funding for advertising campaign to boost tourism industry'


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The Independent Online

The government of the Maldives is said to be looking for funding from the private sector for an advertising campaign to boost its tourism industry following turmoil earlier this year when its elected president was forced from office in what he later claimed was a coup.

A report in Minivan News said the government had already signed a £160,000 deal with the BBC to sponsor the weather service on the broadcaster’s web site and BBC World News between June 18 and August 27. It said the tourism ministry was now in discussion with the country’s major resorts to fund further advertising projects over the coming year.

“At present we are trying to build investor confidence in the country,” said deputy tourism minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal. “There has been too much focus on stories such as how the Maldives will be sinking in 30 years.”

The violence and unrest earlier this year culminated in February with the then president, Mohamed Nasheed, announcing his resignation. He subsequently said he had been forced to do so at gunpoint and that if he had not stepped aside many people could have lost their lives. He was replaced by the then vice-president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan. Many observers believe the current president is being supported by the country’s former dictator, whom Mr Nasheed beat in an historic election in 2008.

While no tourists were caught up in the violence, officials have conceded that the incident damaged the country’s image. This spring, an international lobbying firm based in London, Ruder Finn, accepted a contract worth a reported £300,000 to try and improve the country’s profile. No-one from Ruder Finn was available for comment.

A BBC spokesperson said: “This is a routine commercial agreement for Maldives Tourism to sponsor the weather bulletin on the BBC's international commercial TV channel and website. The sponsorship is fully consistent with the BBC’s strict guidelines for our commercial services. It is clear to audiences that the sponsorship of the weather bulletin in no way impacts the impartiality of our editorial output.”

The government has also reverted to “Sunny side of life’ tourism slogan. Under Mr Nasheed the tourism industry had switched to ‘Always Natural’.

Earlier this month, various factions in the Maldives agreed on the establishment of a commission to look into the events of February. In an interview with the BBC, President Waheed said: “If they find out that I have had a role in bringing about a coup, then I will definitely resign. But if I have no role - if somebody else has done it - it doesn’t mean I have to resign, according to the law of the Maldives.”