Global travel writers, industry professionals come together to discuss Maldives tourism promotion

Travel bloggers and social media influencers from around the world gathered together with professionals from the Maldives tourism industry on Sunday to discuss ways to use new media technologies in promoting the Maldives as a tourist destination.

The first ever global travel writers’ conference in the Maldives kicked off Sunday morning at Bandos Maldives with a ceremony attended by tourism minister Moosa Zameer and top officials from relevant government agencies.

Following the inauguration ceremony, the World Travel Writers’ Conference officially began with a keynote speech by New Zealand-born travel blogger Elizabeth Carlson on sharing experiences and the art of storytelling. In her speech, Elizabeth spoke on the importance of storytelling, and highlighted how it is related to content marketing in the present day.

Elizabeth delivers her keynote speech. PHOTO/ MALDIVES TV

It was followed by a keynote speech by Dr Sunny Umar, COO at local PR agency Maldives Getaways, on the significance of cultural tourism to the archeological history of the Maldives.

“Maldives is commonly known as a honeymoon or family destination, but the country should be promoted for its history, which is rich and full of intrigue. History is a strong selling point for travel enthusiasts, and that Maldives has a lot to offer history wise,” he said.

Dr Sunny Umar delivers his keynote speech. PHOTO/ MALDIVES TV

The two keynote speeches were followed by the first panel discussion, on the topic of turning factual stories into crafted narratives.

Moderated by Maldives Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) Secretary General Ibrahim Munaz and participated by Elizabeth, Sunny, Sardinia-based Claudia Tavani, Filipino travel blogger Ana Patricia Velarmino and Indian travel blogger Shivya Nath, the panelists agreed that travellers’ account plays a major role in creating a positive image, but that there is so much more to it than just standard of service. They noted that in order to tell a positive narrative of a destination, research on market influencers and writers has to be conducted.

The first panel discussion of the conference. PHOTO/ MALDIVES TV

Three more keynote speeches and two more panel discussions were held during the conference.

In her keynote speech, award-winning luxury travel writer Gina Samarato highlighted how multimedia plays a vital role in the travel industry, especially in bringing different experiences to life. She noted that combining her writings with images creates a much more positive effect than just text-based articles.

Meanwhile, local travel blogger Ahmed Ijaz spoke about how travel trends of Maldivians have changed throughout the years, noting that tourism has broadened both inbound and outbound tourism in the country.

The two keynote speeches were followed by the second panel, moderated by Mariyam Wisam, Registrar of Companies at the economic ministry. Gina, British travel photographer Stuart Vincent Forster, luxury travel writer Cacinda Maloney, adventure filmmaker John C Yoshihara, Russian travel blogger Yulia Safutdinova and Dr Ahmed Shan participated in the panel.

The moderator began by asking the panelists a simple question: when you wanted to come to the Maldives, how did you start your search? And what difference does it make? All the panelists admitted to have googled about the country, the location and what could be done there. For Gina, the cultural experience she has had in the Maldives was something she had not expected as it was not amongst the search results.

The second panel discussion of the conference. PHOTO/ MALDIVES TV

The last keynote speech of the conference was delivered by Janet Newenham, multi-award winning travel writer and blogger from Ireland, on what bloggers do. According to Janet, the work of bloggers and social media influencers is all about sharing their life in real-time. Sharing what they do via social media tools such as Instagram Stories, Snapchat, Facebook Live and more allows their followers around the world to know what they are doing exactly and to connect with them, she said.

Janet Newenham delivers her keynote speech. PHOTO/ MALDIVES TV

Janet’s speech was followed by the last panel discussion of the conference, on the topic: are luxury travel destinations failing in their storytelling?

Mariyam Waseema, the Senior Policy Executive at the environment ministry, moderated the panel, which began with a question on how destinations could be promoted through storytelling. The panelists, who included Janet, Dutch travel blogger Tom Grond, travel photographer and videographer Allison Green, British travel blogger Jayne Gorman, PR and Communications Manager at Kandima Maldives Shafraz Hafiz and Corporate General Manager at Adaaran Resorts Suresh Dissanayake, noted the importance of incorporating more components such as travellers’ experiences into destination marketing. Destinations should be selling experiences rather than brands by including authentic stories that connect with travellers, they said.

The conference will officially conclude with a gala dinner and a networking session at Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi Monday evening.

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