According to the minister of Tourism Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb this year Maldives 'surprised' visitors at the annual Internationale Tourismusborse (ITB) fair held in Berlin, Germany.
“A delegation of around 250 people went to represent the Maldives this time, amongst them are the country’s foremost resort owners, tour operators, travel agents and members of tourism related organisations and government officials. Many were surprised that such a big delegation had arrived given what was perceived to be the condition of the nation. This time, a big stand was made under the slogan ‘Sunny Side of Life’ and our delegation was very active,” the minister revealed.
In an interview with Haveeru over the phone while in London, the minister said that in the first three days of the fair around 2,500 people visited the Maldivian stand.
The ITB Fair which was held from March 7-11 is the biggest travel fair held in Europe. However, this year the market for the country in Germany had dwindled due to the political unrest in the country, but that the delegation had explained the political situation in the Maldives to the German media and German Foreign Minister.
“A press conference was held and Hussain ‘Champa’ Afeef, Solah Shihab and Maleeh of the Maldives Association for Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) took part with me in it. One thing we all noticed was that the people were ill informed about the situation of our country. A journalist asked if the spas were still closed. There were several such confusions,” he said.
The minister highlighted that the Maldivian delegation was swamped by journalists and reporters.
“On the first three days several journalists came up to me and asked various questions about the Maldives. I spent a lot of time trying to spread the word about the Maldives through journalists, and the response we received was very good. Some newspapers stated that they the Maldives in a ‘vast perspective’,” Adheeb pointed out.
Afeef and the others conveyed that though the Maldives has experienced some changes on the political front the country is safe and tourists are welcome. They worked very hard to promote the country at the fair,” the minister noted.
The minister also told Haveeru that Richard Quest of CNN has been invited to the country to promote tourism as well.
“I suddenly saw him approach our stand. He asked a lot about the country and expressed his interest of coming here,” he said.
Like every other, this year’s fair also saw another ‘Maldivian night’ where visitors were presented with Maldivian traditional dances and ‘boduberu’ activities.
“They were surprised at how the fair progressed this year, and everyone claimed it was different this year,” he added.
Adheeb estimates that because of the fair the Maldivian tourism market will attract more German tourists.
“The Germans see our country as an unusually tranquil place, and the German foreign minister considers us their close collaborator and so I’m confident that in the near future the tourism industry will grow stronger and our overseas markets will expand,” he said.
The Maldives has been participating in the ITB Fair for the past 20 years and has recently been presenting the country in unusual ways which has earned it valuable foreign attention.
Adheeb claims that in a short period we would start to see the effects of the positive feedback received by the Maldives at the ITB Fair.