Shangri-la ignoring Addu

Villingili Shangrilla

There is news coming from Addu that Shangri-la is ignoring Addu when it comes to recruitment and that they are considering petitioning the management of Shangri-la to reconsider the position. Historically the people of Addu worked hard to let the island of Villingili be build as a resort calling upon, cajoling, taunting and even threatening the government since perhaps the first days of tourism in Maldives. Addu is the second most populous atoll in Maldives and the biggest pool of resort related talent can be found in Addu. With the exception of perhaps a handful of resorts, all resorts in Maldives will have a majority of staff from Addu and the prospect of returning to Addu and getting a job closer to home (in Shangri-la or Herethere) is a dream of almost all of them.

Most big hotel and resort chains have good corporate social responsibility policies designed to help alleviate friction arising from issues just like this and Shangri-la is no exception. However the situation in Shangri-la in Addu is quite opposite from what is preached about Shangri-la CSR policies. It maybe an HR oversight to let unskilled workers be hired from contractors who sent expatriate workers to the resort on a case by case basis whilst the same category of workers can be recruited from Addu which would go a long way to help the cash, employment (or for that matter everything) strapped community of Addu.

At last Herethere handover begins

Herethere or Handhufushi MTDC
Herethere or Handhufushi MTDC

Following a verdict issued by the Civil court to Yacht Tours to handover the resort to MTDC, the resort is being handed over. This is some news for the many staff of the island who were laid off most unceremoniously in the midst of the chaos when the two operators were litigating against each other for the island.

Herethere is one of the many things that went wrong when politics and businesses were combined in the last days of the former government. It involved placating PA (Peoples Association a political party belonging to Yaameen the nephew of the former president) of which Jabir (of Yacht Tours) was a member at the time as well as accommodating the wishes a large number of business people who with various means were buying shares of MTDC which was up for grabs with little oversight using proxies etc. With the share buying frenzy coming to notice of the public and the transition from the former government to the current one many questions are being raised and many a tie that was tied in the last days of the former government are being untied. Yacht Tours seems to have been found on the wrong side of the law this time and is welcome news for the laid off staff who were seen protesting when MTDC hastily decided to give the island to Yacht Tours in the first place citing many grievances against the Yacht Tours which is famous for withholding staff pay for extended periods of time.

According to media reports MTDC has sent a four-member delegation to the resort to observe the situation there before making final arrangements to take over the resort and Yacht Tours is said to be extending cooperation to MTDC in the handover process.

MTDC had claimed that the cost of insurance and cost of the stock handed to Yatch Tours amounted to MRf 11 million which the Court has ordered to pay to MTDC in two months. The verdict was delivered on 23 July. Another case case filed by MTDC to get the outstanding rents from Yacht Tours for the resort is awaiting verdict.

Of the many islands Herethere resort is the only resort belonging to MTDC from which there is a an income to be generated and it is doubtful dividends can be paid to share holders if the outstanding rent is not received by MTDC.

MTDC has paid a dividend of MRf 9,000 in 2008, while the same has dropped to Mrf 2300 this years. Shareholders are unhappy they are receiving a very small dividend this year while a handsome dividend was paid last year. There are different stories why MTDC decided to pay such a large dividend last year when some sources who bought very large numbers of shares has recovered their entire investment in one shot raising many questions.

Ways to help the local economy

local girls sweeping lawns
local lawn sweeping girls

Tourism workers need not all be waiters and room boys or office boys. There are girls as well. There are others whose work goes sometimes unnoticed. Enter the humble sweepers… or path cleaners or named whatever.

Although most of the resorts in Maldives do employ their own little or big force of sweepers and island cleaners who for the most part would be categorized as maintenance workers, there are some resort islands who do employ locals from nearby islands which is very good for local economy. Most resort islands in Maldives although being prosperous in business once developed as a hotel, used to be the picnic island of the closest inhabited island nearby and most islanders would have fond memories of the island only a few years back. However as soon as the island becomes a resort the island becomes exclusive and the nearby island locals derive no benefit from proximity to prosperous business except in name.

In the interest of being good neigbourly, resorts needs to take into consideration such issues of relevance to their neighbors to foster trust and goodwill which is the ultimate guarantee of safety in a business. For example the recent incidents in Herethere Resort where break-ins and burglaries happened in the resort is directly linked with the unemployment situation in Addu atoll. Hence its important for resorts to give whatever benefit which can be given to their neighbors and foster good relations with the nearby islands.

Coming back to the sweepers they would mostly be local women who would welcome any opportunity to be productive whilst the resorts also would benefit from their experience and efficiency which is nothing to be compared to the multi skilled inefficient resort employees. The same can be said of local fishermen who would only be too happy to supply reef fishes and such sea food if the resorts would buy from them. Most of the time they would be prevented from such mutually beneficial business either because the supplies department might have prior agreements with importers thanks to insider dealings or other such forms of corruption which goes largely unnoticed by the all knowing managements.