Maldives ups 2019 tourist arrivals forecast to 1.6 mln

Maldives on Tuesday revised its forecast for the number of tourists visiting the island nation this year, increasing the estimate to a record 1.6 million.

Tourist minister Ali Waheed told representatives of donor countries and development agencies attending a partnership forum in Maldives that the country’s tourism sector is on course to achieving a stronger than expected performance this year. As such, 1.6 million tourists are expected to holiday in the world-renowned beach holiday destination this year, he said.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had earlier said his government had a goal of attracting 1.5 million tourists to the Maldives this year.

Tourist arrivals to the Maldives increased by 36.2 per cent in April, making it the highest growth in tourist numbers for any month in the past 15 years. Official figures show that a total of 190,713 tourists visited the Maldives in April — a 36.3 per cent increase over the 163,000 tourists that visited the country in April 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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