Maldives’ main source markets post strong gains in tourism spending

Major source markets for the Maldives tourism industry, including China and Europe, recorded significant growth in outbound tourism spending last year, a study has revealed.

The study published by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) showed increasing demand for international tourism across the world and spending by outbound rise. With a 12 percent increase in spending, China continued to lead international outbound tourism last year, followed by the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and France as top five spenders.

China maintains lead

Last year was another strong year for outbound tourism from China, the world’s leading outbound market. International tourism expenditure grew by US$ 11 billion to US$ 261 billion, an increase by 12 percent (in local currency). The number of outbound travellers rose 6 percent to 135 million in 2016. This growth consolidates China’s position as number one source market in the world since 2012, following a trend of double-digit growth in tourism expenditure every year since 2004.

Despite falling tourist arrivals since last year, China remains the single biggest source market for the Maldives as well. In 2016, the Maldives welcomed 324,326 visitors from China which represented 25.2 percent of total tourist arrivals during the year.

Main markets for Maldives lead tourism spending in Europe

Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy are the four European markets in the top ten and all reported growth in outbound demand last year. Germany, the world’s third largest market, reported 5 percent growth in international tourism spending last year, rebounding from weaker figures in 2015, reaching US$ 81 billion.

Demand from the United Kingdom, the world’s fourth largest source market, remained sound despite the significant depreciation of the British pound in 2016. UK residents’ visits abroad were up by 5 million (+7 percent) in 2016 to 70 million, with expenditure close to US$ 64 billion.

France, the world’s fifth largest market, reported seven percent growth in tourism expenditure in 2016 to reach US$ 41 billion. Italy recorded one percent growth in spending to US$ 25 billion and a 3 percent increase in overnight trips to 29 million.

Europe is the single biggest regional source market for the Maldives with a share of over 50 percent of total arrivals. According to official figures, the European market observed an year on year increase of 13.5 percent in the first two months of this year, with a 3.8 percent increase in arrivals from the UK, a 28.8 percent increase in arrivals from Italy and a 0.2 percent increase in arrivals from France.

Emerging markets post strong gains

Among the largest 50 source markets, there were another nine that recorded double-digit growth in spending in 2016: Vietnam (28 percent), Argentina (26 percent), Egypt (19 percent), Spain (17 percent), India (16 percent), Israel and Ukraine (both 12 percent), Qatar and Thailand (both 11 percent).

Many of those countries have in recent years become important emerging markets for the Maldives.

India has established itself as a major emerging source market for the Maldives tourism industry. Official figures show that 66,955 tourists arrived in Maldives from its closest neighbour last year, a 27.9 percent increase from the 52,368 Indian travellers that chose the Maldives in 2015. That growth is expected to continue this year as well, as the number of Indian tourists that visited the Maldives recorded a 23.6 percent year-on-year increase in the first two months.

Middle East is also one of the major emerging source markets for the Maldives. Official figures show that 51,330 tourists — 42.7 percent of which were Saudis — visited the Maldives from Middle Eastern countries last year, a 22.3 percent increase over the 41,976 the year before. That growth is set to continue this year as well, as Middle Eastern travellers that chose to travel to the Maldives for their holidays increased by 3.9 percent in the first two months of the year.

The latest study by the world tourism body is good news for the Maldives, which is trying to recover the recent loss in important markets such as China and to court more travellers to cater an increased supply. The country has stepped up tourism promotion in China and in emerging markets such as the Middle East in an attempt to reach an ambitious target of a record 1.5 million tourists this year.

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