Maldives Social Media Campaign Backfires

When the Maldives Tourism Board urged fans of the islands to help make their tourism slogan, “The Sunny Side of Life,” a global trend on Thursday, the campaign backfired. Instead of spreading positive words about the tropical paradise, tweets about police brutality and political illegitimacy spread like wildfire.

The social media campaign, which aimed to make the hashtag #SunnySideofLife a global trend, kicked off on the tourism board’s Twitter account, @myvisitmaldives, with this simple tweet: “Maldives has been awarded as the Most Romantic Destination in the World #SunnySideofLife.”

Readers, most of whom seem to be Maldivian citizens, shot back with some words of their own. Here is a sampling of some of the choice words they had:

  • #SunnySideofLife where a resort owner withhold staff salary, but spends millions to BUY a seat in parliament!!
  • Evening plans? I’m joining the protest after work.. can’t stand to watch fellow citizens being beaten by the police #SunnySideofLife
  • #Maldives not paradise for its people. Brutal coup regime suppressing our rights to freedom of expression & assembly. #SunnySideofLife
  • ThankU Coup Government of Maldives for #SunnySideofLife event. We’ll make sure to pass your acts of brutality to Twittersphere.
  • #SunnySideOfLife: Pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear lagoons filled with blood of its citizens who are fighting for democracy
  • Visit the only place where ur tourism dollar will facilitate coup makers to persecute its people in the #sunnysideoflife

Other tweets included pictures of alleged victims of police brutality, participants in political protests and more. Most of the tweets were aimed at the current government, which was installed after President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted last February. Nasheed, one of the founders of the Maldivian Democratic Party who is well respected by the people of the Maldives, claims he was forced to resign at gunpoint and is calling on his successor, Mohamed Waheed, to resign immediately and hold elections.

When all is said and done, the tourism board did reach their goal of making #SunnySideofLife a global trend. Tweets featuring the hashtag are still filtering in, but few of them actually boast about the redeeming qualities of the islands. What’s more, the campaign just-so-happens to coincide with a United Nations hearing that centers on the status of human rights in the Maldives.

Readers, weigh in; do you think the tourism board should have thought out the timing of the campaign’s launch a little more? And does anyone who has been to the Maldives recently have something to share?

[Photo by muha..., Flickr]