Maldives posts growth in tourist arrivals despite summer low

Maldives has posted a slight growth in tourist arrivals in May despite the traditionally low summer season.

Official figures for the month of May released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 93,491 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 0.3 percent increase over the 93,228 tourists in May 2016.

Travel trends and tourist demographics observed a slight change as well, as Europe joined China to post declines in arrivals in May.

Europe, the largest regional source market which has been recovering after a year of falling growth, posted a slight drop of 1.5 percent to reach 35,739 from 36,279 in May 2016. This decline is mainly due to a fall in arrivals from important European markets such as the UK (down 1.4 percent), France (down 5.5 percent), Germany (down 13.8 percent) and Spain (down 1.4 percent).

However, recovery in the Russian market was again evident as Russian visitors to the Maldives increased by 15.8 percent in May to reach 3,564 compared to the 3,077 in May 2016. Italy, a traditionally strong European source market which has been on the recovery after stagnant growth, also posted a 14 percent increase in May to reach 3,131 compared to the 2,746 in May 2016.

Asia, which has recently become a major emerging source market, continued its growth with arrivals from the region increasing by 3.3 percent. India, Maldives’ closest neighbour, observed a growth of 21.7 percent, while South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand also posted significant gains; 22.7 percent, 21.8 percent and 27.1 percent respectively.

Relatively new markets such as Australia and the Americas also recorded significant growths in arrivals — 25.1 percent and 22.6 percent respectively — with arrivals from the US increasing by 19.8 percent, 16.3 percent from Canada and 45.4 percent from Brazil.

Middle East, however, recorded the highest decline since becoming one of the most important emerging source markets about a year ago, as arrivals dropped by a whopping 40.9 percent in May to reach 2,725 compared to the 4,608 in May last year. Arrivals from Saudi Arabia dropped by 60.5 percent, Qatar by 44.3 percent, United Arab Emirates by 19.6 percent and Egypt by 37.9 percent.

Worries concerning the Chinese market, which still remains the single biggest source market despite falling numbers for consecutive months, further worsened last month as well, as arrivals dropped by 7.1 percent to reach 23,225 from 25,005 in May 2016. Taking into account the latest decline, arrivals from China have decreased 9.1 percent in the first five months of this year compared to the same period of last year.

As arrivals from China drop steadily, the Maldives has recently announced plans to step up marketing in China in order to increase the number of Chinese tourists to one million per year.

According to the May statistics, total arrivals for the first five months of the year increased by 5.8 percent to reach 572,318 compared to the 540,887 in the same period of last year.

After years of double-digit growth in tourism, the Maldives has over the recent years observed a slowdown in growth despite double digit growth last month. Tourist arrivals have crossed the one million milestone and is on course to reach 1.5 million by the end of this year, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.

However, the latest figures are a welcome sign for the Maldives tourism industry, which is the main economic activity in the island nation, as summer period has traditionally been considered the low season. To attract more travellers from May to September, resorts in the Maldives have announced special offers with hefty discounts and a host of other benefits.

Photo courtesy: Avas Online

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