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Maldives Inks Agency Appointments For Controversial Tourism Account

Asia Pacific, EMEA, Global, North America

Arun Sudhaman 30 Apr 2012

MALE, MALDIVES--The Maldives has confirmed the appointment of a number of PR firms to its global tourism business, amid a backlash from opponents of the country’s new regime.

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), which oversees the nation’s tourism promotion, has affirmed the selection of Ruder Finn as its international PR firm. The US agency has been criticised for taking on the business by NGOs that claim the new Maldivian government took power in a coup.

According to an MMPRC statement, Ruder Finn will oversee US and international public relations “to instil confidence in the tourism industry of the Maldives, gain understanding and public acknowledgement of the Maldives in the international community, ensure sustainable development of the tourism industry and improve the image of the destination.”

Ruder Finn SVP and ethics officer Emmanuel Tchividjian last week told the Holmes Report that the firm would immediately resign the business if the Maldives Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) found that the current government took power illegally.

The MMPRC has also said that it is in the process of appointing PR support in India, Russia and Middle East, after already hiring firms in the UK, Germany and China.

In the UK, the country hired travel PR specialists Rooster PR last month. In Germany it has hired Belcanto Communications; and in China it has begun working with Travel Link Marketing.

According to the MMPRC, 23 agencies from the countries in question made formal proposals in response to the organization’s PR tenders.

“The role of the agencies would be to boost the image of the destination, increase investor confidence, to overcome negative publicity as well as to increase market share from the core markets and to work towards achieving one million tourist arrivals target of the Maldives in 2012,” added the MMPRC in a statement.

Farah Faizal, the former Maldivian ambassador to the UK, has called on Ruder Finn to resign the business.

“The people of the Maldives do not need a global PR firm providing media spin and political air-cover to a criminal dictatorship that has killed democracy in the country,” said Faizal, in a statement to the Holmes Report. “We hope they see sense and change their minds.”

Former president Mohamed Nasheed has been out of power since Mohamed Waheed Hassan took charge of the government on 7 February. Nasheed has since lobbied the US and Indian governments to call for early elections in the country.

The Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) was set up in response to international calls for an independent assessment of the legimitacy of President Hassan’s new administration. The CNI has, however, attracted criticism from pressure groups, notably the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which is comprised of foreign ministers from a number of Commonwealth member states, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada and Jamaica.

Last week, CMAG said that the CNI "is not independent or impartial, and has failed to gain sufficient support in the Maldives." The organization has called on the Maldivian government to change the composition of the CNI within four weeks. 

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