Now its time to market the industry

Huhab
‘Reservations Department’ in a typical resort is the easiest place to work in despite booking people’s insistence otherwise. They claim they have a busy restless life but reality is far from that. Most of the bookings our resorts get are not because of intense marketing or advertising campaigns. Tourists do come to our resorts because there is a huge demand for tourism worldwide and the limited number of resorts we have available in our country. The supply of tourists to our country is only limited by the room rates our resorts quote for potential customers and a few more things like distant travel etc. The proof of this statement is in the situation whereby we have a low season and a high season despite our tiny market. If we do proper marketing of our resorts, we wouldn’t have a high or low season and we can find guests to fill the rooms all year round.

Most resorts in the depths of ‘low season’ will do anything to get guests including soliciting air-line crew contracts to lowering the room rates so much so that the bargain hunters quickly arrive to fill a gap. The ‘bargain hunter’ type of tourists bring with them their own sets of problem which the resorts try to evade as soon as high paying customers arrive.

Imagination must have been the lacking factor. We still seems to be following the tried and tested ways of marketing for the European and Japanese market and doing the easy job rather than doing real marketing of which huge potential lies in Middle East and Russian markets. This is especially the case in Middle East where Maldives is viewed with particular closeness by potential clientèle because Maldive happens to be the other 100% Muslim country in the world! This is an important marketing advantage our resorts needs to take into account.

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death of print media in Maldives

print
Throughout the long regime of the former president, print media had a hard time coming of age and at last it seems our average print media has come to about the adolescence age.
Prior to Hukuru, print media was routinely tasteless only catering for the whims of the regime, printing what is acceptable to the regime and also what is not relevant. Everything changed with or about that time when Hukuru was born and overnight people had hope and issues to talk about. Politics it seems have ignited a fused long been protected by the regime. Then came the inevitable repercussions with the writers of hukuru being jailed and persecuted for things even which could now be said to be thought crimes.. Followed and on the heels of the success came Sangu which too made many ripples and openly raised many genies the then regime was trying to keep in the bottle. However Sangu was more diplomatic than Hukuru and the long queues people lined up to purchase those magazines are not something seen even in queues made to buy tickets for championship matches in the ‘Galolhu dhandu’.
After the persecution of those two early hopes of print media, all sorts of magazines (weeklies) burst into life but most had on the front pages a model girl and printed everyday nonsense issues such as whims and tantrums of our local film actresses…

A few years was wasted like that and then came Sandhaanu, a ‘folhi’ styled pamphlet exclusively on politics which circulated like hot cakes for a very media hungry country. Sandhaanu at the time appeared in mysterious ways sometimes as fliers, sometimes as faxes and emails. What was important was the content not the form at the time. The country was hungry for news and anyone who fulfilled that gap was in demand. The results of the folhi were immediately felt, people were becoming more aware of the scale of the corruption in the country and the increasing public awareness of the problems in the country must have been the catalyst for the inevitable defeat of the then invincible regime. Sandhaanu writers were found and tortured and jailed and ultimately freed because it caused the regime more problems than they anticipated.

Many things happened in between and at last the regime change which is perhaps the best moment for this country in many many years. After the accession to ‘throne’, the new president Anni made it a point to free the media from state controls by dispensing away with perks and privileges given to local dailies to promote state agenda which took the form of government sponsored ads for notices etc. The Government Gazette was formed to print these government notices and ads which was decried by the few dailies as a certain death blow to their daily operations. Death, they seems to have evaded to some extent because still Haveeru, Miadhu, Aafathis and Haama seems to be going on although there were talks of staff being fired from all these dailies except Haveeru. Time only will tell weather they can weather these tough times and emerge as respectable newspapers in the long run.

The often controversial Minivan News which lived a brief spell of time as print media saw it banned under the Maumoon administration in all government offices and Security Service, had an adventurous life which now enjoys the spiritual realm in the Internet. Minivan News it appears is closely linked with President Anni and is alleged to be written in the President’s Office which seems closer to truth than other explanations.

Its a fact that our print media is having a hard time at the moment but its also a fact that our print media has to do more to come out of the state of despair its currently in. Objective, well researched news and issues and writings can still fire up sentiments and sell a paper in this country. Bad journalism is to blame at present. Politics has its day and our dailies like everyone else is tainted with association with the regime one way or other way. But coming to present our journalists and writers has to do more than cry out nostalgia. Asking “What’s your favourite colour?” like questions to the then president was also a form of journalism suitable to a certain age and time but that time and age seems to have dissipated to memories of history we could rather do without.

BML the slow cumbersome bank…

bml1
Internet banking service provided by Bank of Maldives is all but useless for anything other than checking balance on accounts and for paying Dhiraagu and Wataniyya bills. But still its a service resort workers need to as it lessens the journeys to bank once in a while. However like everything in our country is, Bank of Maldives despite its vibrant business is still slow paced and cumbersome. For example the Card Center at Bank of Maldives is notorious for wasting people’s time as bank staff appears not particularly concerned even when the floor is filled and thronged with people. On top of all that the bank it appears needs tremendous amount of time even to process an Internet banking service application or for that matter any application.

The crazy salaries of the government sector

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Most of govt vacancies posted in Government’s Gazette seems fairly out of reach in terms of the requirements they seek or the benefits package they are prepared to give. For one thing if a decent job is vacant the requirement to the job will be so stringent as to disqualify 90% of those who would wish to apply in the first place. The remaining 10% of those who can apply will be frustrated with the low benefits compared to what they have to offer.

For example: Family Court seeks an administrator.
The pay is about 14639 which is about 1100 dollars. The qualification is Masters Degree + some more conditions. The problem with this situation is as follows

  • Masters Degree is not easy to get in a country where there is no university.
  • 1100 dollars is peanuts if one lives in Male’ where a single room accommodation is well worth more than half of that number. Whereas in resorts 1100 dollars is  the low end of what the average ‘room boy’ or waiter earns in a month.
  • Does one really need that much qualification for a clerk type job? Or would it not be a waste of education to demand that much for a mundane paper job?

Despite the inconsistencies, people tend to apply for jobs in Male’ to be close to family and lead a normal life. Resort life is not for everyone and not for all ages. Resort life has an expiry date beyond which if one wishes to work, one would have to climb a few more rungs of the corporate ladder.

There was no framework or guidelines for qualification and pay for government employees untill very recently and the current adminstration is still grappling with the mess that was created in the past regime. The current regime knows about these issues and does not wish to open the pandora’s box quite yet. Because jobs relate to people and people have  feelings, strong ones when it comes to someone meddling in one’s pay, so to modify existing benefits and conditions is a nighmare the current regime would wish to postpone untill made inevitable.

Freedom of expression abused

Freedom of speech, expression and freedom of assembly maybe a novelty for the time being in Maldives but it was not always the case. Such freedoms were at times allowed and at times curtailed depending on how the country was run. However in the present euphoria over regime change from a brutal dictatorship to some sense of normalcy people simply gets carried away and tend to associate these values to one political party or other. However facts remain facts and democracy is not an invention of DRP or MDP.

With the ascension of MDP led government and the ensuing liberal reforms, we are currently seeing a worrying trend of these very liberal reforms being abused by a vocal minority to put forward their agenda over the whole country. Topics such as hudhoodh which for years have been taken for granted and where appropriate dispensed with, suddenly was tabled in popular media for the whole world to debate and suddenly we get lots of negative media exposure which is hardly the work of any patriot. Also were brought to prominence absurd theories of imaginary ‘jaariyaas’ for which the authorities paid a considerable amount of effort to investigate however failed to materialize as was the recent case of the American balloon boy who enthralled a considerable portion of US media.

These few individuals who devote considerable amount of energies to discredit this nation are not traitors in their own words. Their only problem is with democracy for democracy calls for respecting the views of the majority. Now the majority in Maldives are Muslims however they go on about their conviction or however a census can be taken of.

These few enemies of this country are easily identifiable as a persistent group whose only inclination is to offend the faith of the vast majority of this country’s population and to sow discord among the ranks by spreading their hatred. Spreading hatred is easy like prostitution.. but not necessarily the best way to achieve an objective. Its the mark of an imbalanced mind, an immature self, a defective education and of course an improper upbringing.

For everything there is a limit. This is easier to grasp for a secular thinker than a dogmatic one! For this reason its time to consider action against these hate criminals who parade under the banner of freedom expression before injured sensibilities blind people to just measures and leads to violence. PR stunts to raise the awareness of the world leaders to the plight of environment is a good necessary move but so is the need to order the house and do the housekeeping before the masses takes on the liberty of freedom of action on their own hands.

Mobile internet for resort people.

The days when resorts switchboard’s were overloaded with calls to staff from loved ones back at home were thankfully over, thanks to the coming of mobile phones. Back then, the most telephone traffic received in a resort would be the hr department from where the hr person will route calls to the staff wherever he or she might be. Its also not uncommon for the calls to spill over to front office desk and GRO desk once the operator is not able to handle several calls at once and the waiting queue becomes long.

History seems to be quite close to repeating itself once again with Internet which at present is given as a favor to staff in a few resorts. In most resorts still, broadband and wireless Internet is a novelty and reserved for the all mighty management and grudgingly sold to guests at bloated prices per minute etc. The cost of using Internet to guest maybe as high as 5$s per minute while the same data stream would be used inside the ‘back office’ by the ‘management staff’ to download movies for free of course!

Of the two parties given permission to operate telephone networks in Maldives Dhiraagu is the giant ugly monopoly the past government has manged to create which is slow, inefficient, expensive, customer UNFRIENDLY but the necessary devil most of us out of necessity have to deal with on a daily basis. Wataniyya on the other hand seems to have the right qualifications for all the positive adjectives but wataniyya’s slow and timid approach to providing a reliable alternative to Dhiraagu deserves no praise at all.

The latest offer from both companies to provide mobile internet is listed below.
dhiraagu
Dhiraagu is marketing the one laari-one-kilo-byte gadget quite aggressively to mislead normal human beings to buy their gadget which is a more expensive plan than what Wataniyya is selling. But the problem is once a person buys one of these things (modem) for 1200rf it would be very difficult to convince him to buy another one Wataniyya is selling for 2000rf even if it would be cheaper to use on a monthly basis. This is where Wataniyya can rightly be said to be behaving like a timid child. Dhiraagu knows this is a grownup’s business and is going about it ruthlessly marketing an expensive and unreliable gadget taking advantage of people’s ignorance on the difference of what a kilo byte and megabyte can mean per laari.

wataniyya
Wataniyya is selling two packages one for occasional users and one for frequent users, the few things wrong about Wataniyya’s product is that the modem is expensive, that a deposit has to be given and that Wataniyya is not marketing the product enough.
wataniya2

Is this Baghdhad?

Media reports about a kidnapping of a youth in broad day light in Male’ by a gang of 15 men who took the youth to a ‘guest house’ beat him up, took his cash card and withdrew money from an atm among a list of crimes the police are still looking into. The criminals tried to give the young man drugs and burnt his body with cigarettes and one of his eyes is bloodshot. The criminals have broken the boy’s spectacle while beating him up. The criminals asked for a ransom of 20000rf from the boy’s father who is a resort worker barely making ends meet. The police have apprehended some of the criminals and the investigation continues.

the story in haveeru
the story in police.gov.mv

So does the questions… When brazen crimes like this happens in broad day light, in one of the most congested place on earth, why was this ordeal allowed to happen? Why haven’t a passerby taken notice of this crime and report to police? Or if it this were the case (most probable), why had the police taken so long to act? The boy was snatched at 4pm in Thursday and the police managed to rescue him 1pm on Friday according to Haveeru? Where is the public anger and dismay at this sort of violation of human rights? Or does human rights apply only when it comes to prisoner’s rights and issues?

Our new government has brought many wonderful changes much needed to the country and they are still deep in works for the common good. Diving to highlight to issue of sea rise and biking to raise the awareness of clean and green living is all good thanks and well done for pr campaigns. But is it not time to say enough is enough for gangs and criminals in Male’? Wouldn’t it be helpful if the president puts his word in the matter and say clearly this is criminality and that it shall end? Not that it will end by anyone saying so. We seems to have a leadership issue when it come to tackling criminality and gang warfare in our islands. What we doesn’t seem to have a problem with is leadership when it comes to matters of environment, Maumoon was the ‘father of the environment’ at his time, Now Anni is the ‘champion’ of environment. We also need a ‘Hero’ of some sorts in our armed forces. Maybe its time now for Ameen Faisal to introduce tougher measures against street criminals.
ameen faisal

Too many chefs will spoil the broth

tomanychef

most resorts in our country have two classes of human beings. The lower classes are the staff and the higher ones are the managers. While in most resorts the higher class of human beings are quite a few in number, some resorts does indeed have them plentiful. Having a plentiful supply of either class of human beings is a mixed blessing.

Every time a manager is hired he needs a small ‘entourage’. It could be his secretary, an office, a dedicated Internet connection to watch movies etc etc and of course the benefit package including bar allowance and Rest and Relax. (a con). But its not infrequent that sometimes a manager is all by himself not having any subordinates under him. I have come across one manager who goes by the title Lobby Manager… (something like a GRO but nevertheless a manager)

But once hired each manager will try to impress his boss and fellow managers with some effort at cost cutting somewhere which normally would infringe on staff benefits somehow. (a pro?)

Most resorts could survive on few managerial positions such as

A General Manager
A Chef
An F&B Manager
A Housekeeper
An Engineer

Working under these positions could be innumerable supervisors if the resort is large and the normal staff could be made to work as a team without further dividing them under more managerial positions.
The advantages of having few top positions is many and is common in locally managed resorts and smaller resorts. Some resorts does indeed have very big bureaucracies as a management and works not much unlike government. These resorts might need to be convinced that they can be efficient and small, a sure way to achieve success in business.

To streamline a management there are other measures such as outsourcing some works which would work perfectly well in our resorts and the benefits of tourism could be distributed to more people than concentrated in the hands of the few.

typical works in a resort which can be outsourced are:
1.The “Launch Section”
2.The Supply Department
3.The Security Section
4.Pest Control.
5.Engine, water plant and Power System Routine Maintenance under contract
6.Staff Accommodation (in some resorts)

Catching fish resort style…

fishcatching
Catching fish by bare hands is not an everyday experience especially if the fish is tuna but occasionally the unexpected happens… What you see is a staff in Anantara Veli hurling a tuna fish (frigate tuna) on to beach from a school of tuna which had entered the shallows around the island and was trying to fly on to beach. The pic was shot in the evening from a mobile phone camera.

The school of fish probably several thousands in number came in to the shallows a day earlier been chased by prey such as sharks and since has been trapped by a navigation error which was a chance to fish on the beach for staff and guests in pure resort style…

The school of fish has since found its way out to the sea after “woving” the guests and giving everyone memories of a life time. Moments like these are few and far between in resort life but are the things which make resort life fun and worthwhile.

Interactive Male’ Map

eatolls
Most of us, the resort workers are from islands and neighboring countries and on our visits to Male’ we might just need a map to get around like the tourists do. However there are very few maps designed for us the normal people. Most maps of Male’ are designed for tourists with facilities for tourists listed such as expensive restaurants and gift shops which are way beyond the reach of most human beings in terms of the prices they put on what they sell. But there is a solution to this problem. All we have to do is to plan our visit to Male or HulhuMale’ or Villingili on-line at the website: http://www.eatolls.com/
There is a search box where we can search the location we want to find and the website will draw a map of Male’ in Google Maps and point the location. Very useful website.

Sawad and the 60 resorts problem

ministersawad
Speaking about the delays in the development of the last batch of resorts which were awarded to successful bidders, Tourism Minister said the islands remain undeveloped because of lack of investment banks or such institutions in the country. This is true to some extent but a far more bigger problem which the tourism minister Sawad did not mention was the fact that all these new islands were competed and awarded to the same people who already owns a couple or more resorts, in a bidding process fraught with corruption from to to bottom. History is witness to the fact that all manners of tricks were employed in the bidding process such as proxies and front companies to get the islands by the existing cartel of resort owners in often illicit ties with the then government and they got the islands sometimes not based on the strength or competency of their bids. Many examples are there of bids being contested in courts after the islands are awarded fraudulently and sometimes the government having to award another island to the injured party simply because the bid evaluation committee made a mistake. Biyaadhoo, which was contested by Yacht Tours and fraudulently awarded to Sunland Hotels is one case and Yacht Tours has being compensated by a court order to award them Kuda Villingili , Male’ Atoll. Here the problem lies in the fact that the government instead of dispensing with justice had opted to forgive the culprits and award the Yacht Tours an island as compensation.
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Another problem according to the minister was the fact the previous government has taken substantial monies from these resort owners as rent for these islands although these islands have not even started development yet. The resort owners who won the bids to these islands want the government to waive further rent monies and even give them compensation which is all but too much to ask. It remains to be seen if the current government can stay even handed with the fraudsters.

A Mahaasingaa for Tourism Ministry

lion_roaring
Because the curriculum was in a mess at the education ministry they started a big “Mahaasingaa” (meaning big lion) which has ended now with lots and lots of ideas, arguments, threats and many a pleadings by various industry leaders promising a brighter future for the next generation of students. We, the old batch were robbed of much education it seems from the curriculum debates.

Fisheries ministry is also waking up from a deep sleep (almost like a hibernation) promising everything from facilities to produce ice, improved baits for fishermen and improved designs for dhonis and fish finding technologies.

Not to be outdone, Labor ministry and Immigration were seen locked in a dispute over who shall keep the monies levied from expatriates and it seems immigration has won. Both these ministries are still arranging house after years of misdirection thanks to which we will hopefully see a better revised sets of laws for labor.

In the tourism ministry the work started with lots of talk of more products to offer to tourists such as cultural tourism and nothing seems to move forward since. The biggest two problems inherited to the tourism industry from the days of “Jaahiliyya” (President Anni coined this term to mean the reign of his predecessor… which to some extent is valid) are that of land reform and unrest in various resorts in the form of protests which are generally a reaction to years of neglect on an important part of tourism industry namely the staff. Of these two issues the issue of labor is effectively the domain of labor ministry and the land reform issue which is expected to be debated in the Majlis in the ongoing term is likely to be fought mercilessly. Resort being resorts, no resort owner would likely let go of a resort even if the way the resort is obtained in the first place might have been fraudulent and is proved to be so and legislated against it. There are many such contestable resort ownership issues which will become controversial in the course of Majlis debates. At the beginning of the current presidency there was a concerted effort by some resort owners to have the resort rent term extended to 50 years which would have been a very bad move for the industry as it would have cemented the positions of some illicit investments in the industry. An interesting point is the current government seemed to support the move at the time which was shot down by the opposition and many others working in the industry. Another important point is that the former government with various proxies and aliases have secured for themselves a few resort islands for the former first family and they are very quiet about their modest gains for obvious reasons.

So, like the Mahaasingaa by the education ministry, the tourism ministry shall also come up with a mahaasingaa of their own to proceed to untangled the mess created in the past regime. The work to be done is in relation to land, labor and of course to promote the country. In this economic crisis the only way out is not through further murky deals underhand but with dispensing justice and being transparent. There is labor in this country which can solve the problem of the dollar shortage aswell as the skills shortage only if the tourism ministry would take charge of the situation rather than staying put expecting other ministries to do their work for them.