Maldives flagship carrier begins weekly service to new Chinese city

Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian has started operating scheduled flights to Hangzhou in China.

The inaugural flight to Hangzhou departed from Male on Wednesday, with the first batch of 200 passengers from the Chinese city arriving in the Maldives Friday morning. A water salute was given as the aircraft landed at the Maldives main Velana International Airport.

According to Maldivian, an Airbus A321 aircraft will serve the new route once a week.

Maldivian operates scheduled flights to several other Chinese cities, including Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Nanjing, Wuhan and Xian, and is in the process of starting direct flights to Beijing. Privately-owned Mega Maldives also served as the primary airline between the Maldives and several major cities in China, including Beijing, before suspending its operations in May.

Several Chinese airlines, including China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Capital Airlines and Air China, operate charter services to the Maldives.

Meanwhile, Chinese low-cost carrier Lucky Air is set to begin flight operations to the Maldives in January.

Maldives ranks amongst the most favoured holiday destinations for Chinese travellers, but the Chinese market has posted major declines over the past year. Arrivals from China, which still remains the single biggest source market, has dropped 10.3 percent in the first half of this year to reach 141,495 from 157,764 in the same period of last year.

The government has recently 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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