A woman has accused five-star resort W Retreat and Spa of racism after staff refused to shelter her and her ten-year-old son on the island during a storm.
Fathimath Shaaira’s Facebook post on the incident went viral and prompted debate online on how Maldivians are discriminated by the multi-billion dollar industry.
In a post titled “racism in paradise,” Shaaira said she was catching a seaplane transfer from W Maldives in Ari Atoll to Malé on Thursday. The plane was delayed by nearly two hours, but Trans Maldivian Airways had failed to inform her of the delay.
“We travelled all the way from island to W resort seaplane hub only to know that seaplebe is scheduled to land at 10:50am. (We came at 9.15) Now what? Well, hey you ain’t a guest, so deal with it. Yea?” she wrote.
“W resort refused to let atleast the kids to get on the resort. What would they lose by helping a local to wait in their staff area perhaps for an hour? How inhumane is that? Its raining and we got no choice bit to wait an hour in a dhoni [local boat] on the rough sea waiting for seaplane which could get delayed by 2 hours even.
“The way they look down on locals is a whole new level of racism. Treating locals like [sic] just because they don’t want the guests to see a local on the resort?”
When asked for a response, both TMA and W Retreat & Spa declined to comment.
According to Shaaira, when she posted about her experience on Facebook, an acquaintance at the resort helped them take shelter. “He came and met us not as part of his job. He helped us against W’s racist policy,” she wrote.
Seaplane hubs are owned by resorts. Maldivians only travel on seaplanes if space is available and on cheaper rates than tourists.
“Apartheid in own country,” one commenter said. Another man who said he had worked at TMA for six years said he had personally witnessed the discrimination across many resorts.
“Most of the time locals are not even allowed to stay at the jetty… the way most resorts treat locals is just unimaginable,” he said.
But others questioned why Shaaira, a customer of TMA expected “VIP service” equal to the guests who pay for resort service.
“You have to be thankful W Maldives that they provided their speed boat to seaplane Platform. You have to be thankful to W Maldives that they allowed you to stay inside the island. You have to be thankful that they allow islanders to travel via their platform,” one reply to her post said.