Minister urges resort operators against decisions detrimental to employees

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed, on Thursday, urged resort operators not to implement measures which are detrimental to their employees as they work to mitigate the losses suffered by the tourism sector in connection to the pandemic COVID-19 outbreak.

Ali Waheed told Sun that the government was committed to working with tourism stakeholders to overcome the challenges it now faces in connection to the deadly virus outbreak, which has now spread to 120 different countries and has been declared a pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO).

He said that he urged resort operators not to cut the salaries and allowances of employees, but to cut costs from other areas.

“The government will find another way for the industry. We will implement measures for relief to tourism industry resort operators and other establishments through Bank of Maldives and other financial institutions,” he said.

Ali Waheed warned resort operators against any snap decisions, and urged operators against any action which is detrimental to employees.

He urged resort operators to respect the rights awarded to employees through the Employment Act.

“The tourism industry need not fight this alone. We stand by them, and we will overcome the current situation by working together. I urge everyone to respect the rights awarded to all employees through the Employment Act. Not to take any action in violation of it,” said Ali Waheed.

Ali Waheed’s remarks comes after Villa Shipping and Trading Company, on Tuesday, issued a circular informing its employees of salary cuts within the range of 10 to 50 percent.

Several resort employees have reached out to Sun claiming they were being sent to their homes on no-pay leave.

Ali Waheed said the tourism industry had, and continued to play a huge role in the government’s efforts to prevent and contain COVID-19 in Maldives.

He has urged all tourism industry stakeholders to provide their full support to the measures being implemented by the government to ensure public safety.

Ali Waheed urged tourism industry employees not to give in to panic.

He said the Tourism Ministry was keeping a close eye on the situation to ensure resorts are implementing the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of employees and protect their rights.

Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has warned the global COVID-19 outbreak had the potential to lead to an economic recession if Maldives failed to take timely and calculated measures to manage the crisis.

It said that the tourism industry, which had finished off strong in 2019, now faced a 29.5 percent negative growth, and was facing 1,376 booking cancellations per day.

The Maldivian government, in an earlier statement, said Maldives had been hit with over 100,000 booking cancellations in connection to the COVID-19 outbreak. And the latest income records show the State had earned MVR 700 million less since the onset of the outbreak.

“Ministry officials are on the ground, at the resorts which have been most affected. They are closely monitoring the situation. The government will ascertain the rights of resort employees,” said Ali Waheed. “We will ensure resorts ascertain the protection of the health of employees in accordance with the instructions of health professionals. It’s not something we will be careless with.”

Eight people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maldives, all of whom are foreign nationals who were either working or vacationing in resort islands Kuredu, Sandies Bathala and Kuramathi.

The restrictive measures imposed by Health Protection Agency (HPA) on Kuredu, Sandies Bathala, and Kuramathi has now been lifted, but areas within the resorts remain cordoned off to hold people identified as high-risk who must remain isolated for a mandated duration.