With over 100 per cent growth, India becomes second biggest market in Maldives tourism

India has become the second largest source market for the Maldives tourism industry, overtaking traditional European markets with over 100 per cent growth during the first half of the year.

Growth in South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, accelerated by an impressive 89.4 per cent in June, thanks to a 116 per cent increase in arrivals from India. A total of 15,875 tourists visited the Maldives in June from its closest neighbour compared to the 7,348 a year ago, representing a 10 per cent market share.

The visitor numbers from India in June is close to the total number of Indian holidaymakers that visited the Maldives during the whole of 2018. A total of 90,474 Indian tourists visited the Maldives in 2018 — up from fewer than 16,000 a decade ago.

The popularity of the Maldives as a holiday destination has been increasing in India thanks to a boost in air connectivity between the two nations. In addition to the flagship carriers of the two countries, several Indian budget carriers such as GoAir, Spice Jet and Indigo have launched direct connections between Male and important Indian cities such as New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.

High profile trips of Bollywood celebrities that draw media attention have also helped boost the Maldives’ popularity amongst Indian holidaymakers. Most recently, superstar Shah Rukh Khan and actress Malaika Arora were in the Maldives.

Official figures show that total arrivals for the first six months of the year increased by 18.7 per cent to reach 862,589 compared to the 726,515 in the same period last year.

Tourist demographics remained largely unchanged in the January-June period, as Europe dominated with a marketshare of 50 per cent of the total tourist arrivals, followed by Asia Pacific with 40 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.

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

China maintained its position as the top contributor to Maldives tourism with a marketshare of 16.3 per cent, as arrivals from China increased by 10.1 per cent during the January-June period to reach 140,265.

India overtook Italy, which is now placed third with a market share of 8.7 per cent, to claim the second spot, as the Maldives’ closest neighbour increased its marketshare to 9.5 per cent with a 99.9 per cent growth in tourist arrivals during the first six months of the year.

Germany and the UK, which slid to fourth and fifth position in May, maintained their positions with a marketshare of eight per cent and 7.5 per cent, respectively. Arrivals from Germany grew by 19.7 per cent to reach 69,237 during the first six months of the year, whilst visitor numbers from the UK saw an increase of 12.6 per cent to reach 64,792 during the period.

France, which saw its marketshare fall again to 4.3 per cent by the end of June, maintained its position as the seventh biggest source market, as Russia retained the sixth position with a marketshare of five per cent. Arrivals from Russia increased by 11.9 per cent to reach 42,949 by the end of June, whilst the number of French tourists visiting the Maldives in the same period grew by 23.1 per cent to reach 37,383.

The US and Japan also maintained their respective rankings as the eighth and ninth biggest contributor to Maldives tourism. Arrivals from the US increased by 34.5 per cent to reach 27,684 in the first six months of the year, whilst the number of Japanese tourists visiting the Maldives in the same period increased by 17.9 per cent to reach 22,624.

Meanwhile, both Sweden and Switzerland were pushed out of the list of the top 10 source markets, as Australia claimed the 10th position with a marketshare of 2.3 per cent by the end June. Arrivals from the emerging market grew by 14.3 per cent in the January-June period to reach 20,084.

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.

Meanwhile, government has revised its forecast for the number of tourists visiting the island nation this year, increasing the estimate to a record 1.6 million from 1.5 million.

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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