Maldives posts double digit growth in tourist arrivals in Feb 2019

Maldives has posted double digit growth in tourist arrivals in February, as more than 160,000 tourists visited the Indian Ocean island nation in the second month of the year.

Official figures for the month of February released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 168,583 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 16.8 per cent increase over the 144,286 tourists in February 2018.

According to the statistics, total arrivals for the January-February period increased by 11.7 per cent to reach 320,135 compared to the 286,637 in the same period last year.

Tourist demographics remained largely unchanged in the first two months of the year, as Europe dominated with a marketshare of 55 per cent of the total tourist arrivals, followed by Asia Pacific with 37 per cent marketshare. Americas secured the third position with five per cent marketshare, whilst Middle East slid to the fourth with three per cent marketshare. African countries also contributed one per cent to the total tourist arrivals to the Maldives.

Despite a downturn of 3.8 per cent in arrivals, China retained its position as the Maldives’ single biggest source market with a marketshare of 17.8 per cent (57,089 tourists).

All the other top 10 source markets posted positive growth in arrivals by the end of February.

Italy (22.2 per cent growth), India (66.8 per cent growth), the UK (14.1 per cent growth) and Germany (15.7 per cent growth) secured the second, third, fourth and fifth position, respectively. France contributed 5.6 per cent to the total arrivals and posted a growth of 24.2 per cent to secure the sixth place, whilst Russia (2.7 per cent growth), the US (33.3 per cent growth) and Japan (3.4 per cent growth) followed on the seventh, eighth and ninth position, respectively. Although arrivals from Switzerland decreased by 3.9 per cent, Swedish visitors accounted to 2.1 per cent of total arrivals making it the 10th biggest source market to Maldives tourism.

Meanwhile, other factors such as average duration of stay, bed nights and occupancy posted mixed performance in the January-February period.

Owing to major increases in accommodation capacity across all segments, including resorts (up 5.4 per  cent), guesthouses (15.4 per cent), hotels (27.9 per cent) and safari vessels (7.5 per cent), the average occupancy rate recoded a slight decline of 1.1 per cent compared to January-February 2018. Average duration of stay also declined by 0.3 per cent to reach 6.2 days in the first two months compared to the same period last year. However, total bed nights reached 1,983,794, which was an increase of 6.3 per cent over January-February 2018.

Maldives welcomed a record 1.4 million tourists in 2018. It was a 6.8 per cent increase from the 1,389,542 tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2017.

Other factors such as average duration of stay, bed nights and occupancy also posted positive growth in 2018.

This positive growth in the tourism industry comes amidst concerns by private organisations representing industry stakeholders such as the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) over the lack of effort and budget to promote the Maldives as a destination.

These concerns come as the world-famous holiday destination struggles to match an increased bed capacity.

Over the past few 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 more than 130. That number is set to increase as another 20 resorts are expected to open 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 500 guesthouses in operation today.

The previous government announced 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.

Meanwhile, the new government has pledged to ramp up tourism promotion.

Reflecting the new government’s pledge, the state budget for 2019 includes MVR 104,200,000 (USD 6.7 million) for tourism promotion, up from MVR 34,733,333 (USD 2.2 million) this year and the previous year.

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