Maldives political tensions spill into lucrative tourism industry as resort workers threaten strike

Saturday, 28 September 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Maldives’s lucrative tourism industry is under threat from the tenuous political situation with two resort worker organisations pledging to go on strike if voting does not take place in the presidential elections on Saturday. The Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) has threatened “prolonged” strike action at resorts across the Maldives should the second round of the presidential election not be held as scheduled on 28 September. Tourism, Maldives main industry, accounts for 70% for their economy with nearly a quarter of arrivals flowing from China. In a statement, TEAM – an industry body representing some 5000 workers across the country’s luxury resorts – said the Supreme Court order issued Monday delaying the run-off vote “destroys the principles of democracy we have embraced and voids articles of the constitution”. The statement went onto say “we will not hesitate to hold a prolonged strike to strengthen democracy and uphold human rights”. TEAM’s statement came a day after the resort industry body, the Maldives Association for Tourism Industries (MATI), issued a statement warning of “irreparable consequences” to the Maldivian economy unless the run-off election is expedited. Earlier in the week ousted President Mohammad Nasheed, who polled strongly in resort islands during the first round vote on 7 September, called for resort workers to go on strike to pressure the Supreme Court into holding elections on 28 September. Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb was optimistic telling local media that he would not allow the tourism industry to suffer because of politics. “We cannot allow any politician to involve the tourism industry in politics. We cannot allow politicians to sacrifice the tourism industry and its workers every time things are politically turbulent,” he told newspaper Haveeru. An increase in Chinese tourists has also raised demand for mandarin speakers with many exclusive resorts now employing Chinese. As protests erupted across Male, tourism numbers have reduced with arrivals preferring to avoid the capital and speed boat to scenic resort islands. The Police and Army were hard at work keeping tourists away from protests and they were observed enjoying their holiday undisturbed by the political turmoil. “We have not observed a reduction in tourism numbers this month,” Capital Travel owner Mohommad Riffath told Xinhua but admitted that a prolonged strike would have serious repercussions.