Recently, a press release was posted on PR.com from Ask Maldives, a travel marketing company based on the island nation's capital of Male, looking for international travel partnerships to boost the tourism sector.
The Maldives are a collection of nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, off the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. According to Ask Maldives, the country relied on fishing before tourism became the largest economic driver during the 20th century.
Today, the government is taking steps to expand its resort locations beyond Male to promote the tropical paradise they have to offer. Photo after photo shows the natural beauty of the country, the amazing deep-sea sites waiting for scuba divers, and the serene, almost otherworldly blue waters surrounding the islands. The same water that brings in the tourists will one day soon, if scientists' predictions are correct, submerge the Maldives, erasing them from the map.
Every day we learn about another dire consequence of global warming. Of late, we've been inundated with touching images of polar bears, penguins, and other cold-weather creatures that are losing their habitats because of arctic melting.
Many of the Maldives' islands hover at about 39 inches above sea level. As the oceans rise, some reports anticipate that, by the end of this century, the approximately 300,000 people of the Maldives will have to flee to higher ground.
Essentially, Ask Maldives is promoting a tourism industry that may not exist in 100 years. Already, articles like this one in the Washington Post are encouraging people to get to the Maldives while you still can. In the year 2100, the last visitors may be stepping foot in Male.
Green issues are now at the forefront of PR practices around the world. Firms are taking steps internally and with their clients to become more conscious of the effect that their work has on the environment. I would encourage Ask Maldives to couple their economic efforts with PR efforts that could, ultimately, play a tangible, life-saving role in the environmental tragedy that awaits this island nation.
In addition to the people who will want to see the Maldives before they are no more, overall interest will increasingly be piqued. Communications experts can help educate the public about the country, the culture, and the Maldivian situation. With greater understanding, the international community will be better equipped to help with relocation efforts and other circumstances that could likely arise as a result of this unprecedented situation.
The Ask Maldives Web site makes no mention of the dire future that may be in store. In fact, the only mention of environmental awareness concerns protection of the nation's unique biodiversity. Perhaps they don't want to depress visitors with bad news. Maybe it's willful ignorance. Perhaps it's just the Maldivian outlook. Each of the Web site's pages has a motto on the bottom: "Maldives - Sunny side of life..."