Maldives tourist arrivals post 8.1 percent growth in July

Maldives on Thursday reported an increase of 8.1 percent in tourist arrivals in July, as the destination continues to recover from a new wave of domestic political turmoil that rocked the island nation early this year.

Maldives attracted a wave of bad publicity following the recent declaration of a state of emergency, which ended in March. However, the political turmoil was strictly restricted to the capital city, away from the resorts and local islands where holidaymakers stay in.

The political turmoil led to rare declines of 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent in tourist arrivals in April and May respectively before rebounding in June with a 10 percent growth.

Official figures for the month of July released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 122,332 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — an 8.1 percent increase over the 113,175 tourists in July 2017.

Europe, the largest regional source market, posted an overall growth of 12.8 percent over July 2017, as arrivals increased to 47,603 from 42,192.

The UK, which is the single biggest European source market, made a gain of 9.3 percent, while several other major European markets such as Italy, France and Spain also posted gains of 25.6 percent, 35.8 percent and 21.2 percent respectively. Germany also rebounded from its rare decline of 23.3 percent in June, as the second most important European source market posted a 1.5 percent growth in arrivals in July.

Russian travellers continued to show their appetite for the Maldives, as arrival numbers jumped 5.5 percent in July to reach 4,370 from 4,144 in July 2017. This strong performance last month translated into an impressive growth of 23 percent in arrivals from Russia for the past seven months of the year.

Arrivals from Asia, the second largest regional source market, also increased 6.5 percent in July.

Arrivals from China once again declined by 3.1 percent to reach 33,227 compared to the 34,276 in July 2017. This decline, which came after declines of 27.5 percent, 28 percent, 27.1 percent and 5.4 percent in March, April, May and June respectively as well as 15.8 percent in January, offset the rare gain in arrival numbers from China in February and led to an 8.6 percent decline in arrivals from the Maldives’ single biggest source market for the January-July period.

Meanwhile, almost all major contributors to Maldives tourism from South East Asia continued to post strong gains in July as well, with arrivals from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines increasing by 69.2 percent, 60 percent and 36.9 percent respectively. Arrivals from Singapore, which had been posting weak performances for the past seven months of year, also increased by 8.3 percent in July.

However, arrivals from South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, declined by 0.4 percent in July after posting major gains for the past seven months of the year. This rare decline is due to negative growth in arrivals from all South Asian countries except India, which posted an increase of 5.7 percent.

Along with the strong performance in established markets, relatively new markets also continued their upward growth trajectory last month, as arrivals from the Americas were up 0.4 percent and Oceania up 29.4 percent.

Arrivals from the US, which last year secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to the Maldives tourism industry, increased by 4.8 percent to reach 3,494 last month compared to the 3,334 in July 2017, while the number of visitors from Australia also increased by 32.7 percent. South Africa, which has been on the recovery, also posted an increase of 1.2 percent.

Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, recorded a slight gain of 1.5 percent in July — the second consecutive month of growth after a decline of 24.1 percent in May. However, arrivals from several major Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates posted negative growth of 32.4 percent, 7.1 percent and 14.7 percent respectively. Saudi Arabia (up 8.4 percent) and Qatar (up 811.9 percent) were the only major contributors from Middle East that made gains in arrivals in July.

According to the July statistics, total arrivals for the first seven months of the year increased by 10.1 percent to reach 848,847 compared to the 770,715 in the same period of last year.

In addition to the recent political turmoil, the Maldives is currently experiencing the traditionally low season.

May to November is considered the low tourist season, as these months constitute rainy season in Maldives. Between May and November, the islands boast of wet weather, making it less ideal for tourists to travel and enjoy the tropical environment.

Over the past five years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers. Several international brands have entered into the market, increasing the number of resorts to 120. That number is set to increase as the government has announced the opening of some 20 new resorts over the next two years.

Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 450 guesthouses in operation today.

The government last year announced new steps to maintain a structured growth in tourism, including a slowdown in leasing islands for resort development and increased marketing efforts in key markets such as China and the Middle East in order to reach an ambitious target of a record 1.5 million tourist arrivals this year.

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