Maldives tourism rebounds, posts double digit growth in arrivals

Maldives tourism rebounded in April, posting a double digit increase in arrivals.

Official figures for the month of April released by the tourism ministry on Tuesday show that a total of 119,774 tourists visited the Maldives in April — a 15.7 percent increase over the 103,493 tourists in April 2016.

Apart from China, almost every major source market posted increases in arrivals in April.

Europe, the largest regional source market which has been recovering after a year of falling growth, posted an increase of 30 percent — 61,542 European tourists compared to 47,351 in April 2016 — with important European markets such as the United Kingdom rising by 5.1 percent, France by 3.9 percent and Italy by 56.7 percent. Recovery in the Russian market was again evident as Russian visitors to the Maldives increased by 60.6 percent in April to reach 5,400 compared to the 3,363 in April 2016.

Asia, which has recently become a major emerging source market, also continued its growth with arrivals from the region increasing by 0.8 percent. India, Maldives’ closest neighbour, observed a growth of 16.1 percent, while South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand posted significant gains; 67.8 percent, 50.8 percent and 23.3 percent respectively.

However, Middle East, one of the most important emerging source markets, observed a decline of 4.2 percent in April with arrivals from Saudi Arabia dropping by 10 percent and Qatar by 57.8 percent.

A couple on an intimate picnic experience on a remote sandbank in Maldives. PHOTO/ SONEVA

The most worrying sign comes from the Chinese market, with arrivals dropping 15.4 percent in April to reach 20,975 from 24,794 in April 2016. With the latest decline, China’s market share in the Maldives tourism industry has now dropped to 17.5 percent from an all-time high of above 30 percent some four years ago.

As arrivals from China drop steadily, the Maldives has recently announced plans to step up marketing in China in order to increase the number of Chinese tourists to one million per year.

According to the April statistics, total arrivals for the first four months of the year increased by seven percent to reach 478,827 compared to the 447,659 in the same period of last year. This growth can be attributed to the recovery in traditional source markets such as Europe, and the increasing numbers from emerging markets such as South and South East Asia.

After years of double-digit growth in tourism, the Maldives has over the recent years observed a slowdown in growth with arrivals dropping by 2.1 percent in March. Tourist arrivals have crossed the one million milestone and is on course to reach 1.5 million by the end of this year, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.

However, the latest figures are a welcome sign for the Maldives tourism industry, which is the main economic activity in the island nation.

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