A Twitter campaign by the Maldives tourism chiefs to boost the popularity of the country as a holiday destination has been hijacked by users tweeting abut police burtality and social unrest. While the Maldives tourism authorities encouraged tourism businesses to help promote the destination, activists used the hashtag to tell the world about what they see as the problems of life in the Maldives.
Unfortunately for the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), it has been a fairly disastrous first attempt at a social media campaign. While some tweets boasted: “Maldives has been awarded as the Most Romantic Destination in the World #SunnySideofLife”, others said, ”A place where a chicken is not allowed to cross a road without being intimidated by Police”. It seems that a large number of tweets using the tourist authorities hashtag were negative. Many of the tweets are aimed at the government, after the ousting of President Mohamed Nasheed in February.
Farah Faizal, from the MDP, was among those tweeting criticisms of the human rights situation. Faizal, who resigned as the Maldives ambassador to the UK office, said there was no co-ordinated opposition response to the tourist authority’s campaign but that it had touched a nerve with ordinary citizens. She also said the intent was not to encourage tourists to boycott the Maldives, but simply to raise awareness.
Amnesty International said it was “deeply concerned at the Maldives government’s continued repression of protestors, including beatings, pepper-spraying, and arrests. Those attacked include peaceful demonstrators, members of parliament, journalists and bystanders”.
It seems that the campaign reached quite a few people, with over 20, 000 accounts and over 40,000 impressions – it certainly has had ”reach” and is still going strong. While Conde-Nast Traveller has branded the campaign a ‘travel-related farce’, it does mean that any media campaign should carefully assess just how to monitor and assess feedback and spin control.