Maldives tourist arrivals dip in October

Maldives has recorded a slight decline in tourist arrivals in October, as several key markets underperformed.

Official figures for the month of October released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 127,393 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 0.5 percent decrease over the 127,986 tourists in October 2017.

Growth in Europe, the largest regional source market, slowed down in October, as arrivals only increased by 1.5 percent to reach 62,962 from 62,018.

The UK, which is the single biggest European source market, made a gain of 8.9 percent, while several other major European markets such as Italy, France and Spain also posted gains of 15.6 percent, 18.1 percent and 29.6 percent respectively. However, arrivals from Germany, the second largest European source market, decreased by 10.9 percent, while the Swiss market also dipped by 7.1 percent.

Russian travellers continued to show their appetite for the Maldives, as arrival numbers jumped 5.7 percent in October to reach 5,800 from 5,485 in September 2017. This strong performance last month translated into an impressive growth of 18.6 percent in arrivals from Russia in the past 10 months of the year.

Arrivals from Asia, the second largest regional source market, decreased for the third consecutive month.

The Chinese market, which had for the past two months showed signs of recovery with a 2.9 percent gain last month, relapsed in October, as arrivals declined by 10.1 percent to reach 25,803 from 28,689 in October 2017. This weak performance widened the decline in arrivals from the Maldives’ single biggest source market for the January-October period to 6.6 percent.

Several major contributors to Maldives tourism from South East Asia, which have been posting strong gains over the past year, once again declined in October, with arrivals from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Singapore decreasing by 22.8 percent, 7.6 percent, 2.9 percent and 16.6 percent respectively.

However, South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, rebounded after major declines for three consecutive months. The 5.1 percent gain in the South Asian market in October is due to the positive growth in the Indian market, which posted a 6.6 percent growth.

Despite mixed performance in established markets, relatively new markets such as the Americas and Africa performed well in October.

Arrivals from the US, which last year secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to the Maldives tourism industry, increased by 8.7 percent to reach 3,307 last month compared to the 3,043 in October 2017, while the number of visitors from Australia also increased by 59.1 percent. South Africa, which has been on the recovery, also posted an increase of 46.9 percent.

Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, recovered in October after major declines for the past three months. Arrivals from almost all major Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates posted negative growth of 41.8 percent, 10.8 percent, 21.9 percent, 175.5 percent and 26.7 percent respectively.

According to the October statistics, total arrivals for the past 10 months of the year increased by 7.3 percent to reach 1,207,852 compared to the 1,125,995 in the same period of last year.

Maldives had in September welcomed the one millionth visitor of 2018.

In addition to a new wave of recent political turmoil and presidential elections, 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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