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Maldives tourism sector: The opportunities that are NOT for the Maldivians

tourists greeted at airport

The original Dhivehi article was published on Mihaaru.com website on 1st May 2017. By Moosa Latheef

The following is a loose translation:

  • Overwhelming amount of discrimination in the tourism sector for Maldivians
  • Top-level posts for clueless foreigners with no experience
  • Huge disfavour for Maldivian staffs by Maldivian resort owners
  • Neglect of Maldives resort employees rights

In the uniform’s shirt pocket there was a badge. Looking closer can read the inscription ’30-years of experience’. For the restaurant staff, it was a great joy. Since the opening of the resort, the staff has been working loyally and with dedication at that resort. He proudly shared the time when he collected water and filled the tanks in the guest rooms. It was when the resort guests showered in salt water and sufficed with a ceiling fan to keep them cool. Even then, he was serving.

And now when the resort has become a five-star resort, still he continues to serve.

Question is, what did he get out of it after all those years of servitude? He received just the monthly salary and some other allowances.

Was he given assistance to build his house? No. Was his children’s education sorted or offered higher education abroad? No. Was he provided with an option to live by himself? No. He has no complaints. Even if he has, he doesn’t talk about it. The pocket badge was his pride which was enough for him.

Let’s now talk to a youngster who pursued higher education in the tourism field. He worked in the job for 15-years. Resort helped him with his higher education and he is grateful. However, he is stuck in an area where foreigners are given more authority and privilege. Female staffs are brought in from Europe to assist in the guest relations area, get promoted within 6 months to the managerial level of a department in the resort.

‘For his 30-years of sweat and hard work, the Maldivian resort owner showed gratitude by giving him a badge.’

He says that he has to do ‘all the work’, yet the Europeans who have no experience and no clue, bags the top-level posts.

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He has many complaints. He knows how things work more than the long-term staffs. He has voiced his grievances.

With this small, yet realistic two examples, Labour Day greetings.

Same post, yet different treatment

There are more than thousands of Maldivians working in the Maldives’ biggest industry; a world class tourism sector. In most resorts staffs are provided with reasonable packages. Especially in resorts operated by international big brands, where employees rights are protected. There are some resorts with Maldivian management who treat Maldivian staff fairly too.

750 k visitor welcome ceremony

Even so, the discriminations between Maldivian and foreign staff hasn’t come to an end.

‘There are huge differences in salary among Maldivians and foreigners in professional posts, also they (foreigners) receive more allowances,’ said a youth with education in the tourism field, who preferred to not reveal his identity.

‘After studies, I came with big aspirations. I have more experience than those expats. I do most of the work since they don’t know how to. Yet, the discrimination is overwhelming. This is the reason why I feel disappointed.’

We are not talking here about food and stay provision. We are talking about discrimination while working in authoritative senior positions in the resort management. Some staffs believe that some Maldivian resort owners dislike of Maldivian staffs. So they give senior posts with the responsibility to foreigners. For example, for an accounting job, they don’t give opportunities for Maldivians with accounting qualification. The high paid job is given to a Sri Lankan or someone from another nationality.

‘Some Maldivian resort owners are not comfortable with Maldivian staffs knowing the resort’s cash inflow. Perhaps it is the reason why they keep foreigners in their financial department,’ said the staff who spoke earlier.

‘The government has neglected to protect the rights and opportunities of the Maldivian employees in resorts.’

Considering the advancements that have come to the Maldives’ tourism industry, the Maldivian staff are devoid of these benefits. There are many complaints about the lack of opportunities for Maldivian staff. Sadly, there is no one to listen to these complaints. Policy makers and government administrators do not exercise their authority over these resorts management. Some employees say that nowadays everything runs as per the resort owners wish. The government has neglected to protect the rights and opportunities of the Maldivian employees in resorts.

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Unfulfilled hopes

Maldivians are mostly present in the restaurant (F&B) department of resorts. However, there are resorts operating without having a single Maldivian employed in this department. Some of these include resorts owned and managed by Maldivians. Experts say the reason behind this is to avoid the demands of the Maldivians and to pocket in the huge savings from hiring a cheaper alternative. Maldivian owners excuse will be ‘to have Maldivian staffs are difficult’. Interestingly, international big brands operating resorts in the Maldives do not seem to share the same opinion regarding their Maldivian employees.

‘..Even when Maldivians have more skill and experience than foreigners, why are Maldivians still not getting the chance to work in the senior management?’

On contrary, the employee who spoke earlier said that the famous foreign big-brand resort operators treat Maldivians in fact, quite nicely.

Yet, his complaint was, even when Maldivians have more skill and experience than foreigners, why are Maldivians still not getting the chance to work in the senior management?

uninhabited island

‘Check up the number of Maldivian managers who are there in resorts. We also want to advance in our careers and we give in that much amount to our work, as well. We also prioritise our work more than our personal lives. However, it just doesn’t get realised for us,’ he said.

His aim is to reach the senior management post by overcoming the obstacles that are there. He believes that there are more loyal and capable Maldivians than those foreign employees who are currently in those posts. However, the problem is being not able to get the chance. He described that as a form of ‘slavery’.

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For his 30-years of sweat and hard work, the Maldivian resort owner showed gratitude by giving him a badge. Ironically, this period the Maldivian resort owner became a millionaire. Maldivian employees believe that the huge portion of the profit went straight into the owner’s pocket only.

‘The Maldivian owner feels that he is doing a favour and a good deed by employing staffs at his resort. The truth is, that a resort won’t operate without its staff,’ an employee who wished to keep anonymity revealed.

‘When these employees work hard, the owners become rich. There are many rights of employees neglected. Why not give a hand to long-term employees to build a house, buy a flat or to educate their children? We don’t see this.’

It is the biggest problem today when Maldivians who work well do not get a chance to fulfill their desires. The other problem is, that employee of 30 years does not get even a small percentage of the big profit gained from the tourism sector.

Source URL: Mihaaru.com

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