Maldives welcomes 13 new resorts in 2017

Maldives has welcomed 13 new resort openings this year, data from the country’s central bank has revealed.

In its economic bulletin for the third quarter ending September, the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) said the operational bed capacity of resorts increased annually by 15 percent and totalled 27,955 beds during the quarter. This largely reflects the opening of 13 new resorts, it added.

“Mirroring these developments, the average occupancy rate of resorts fell to 68 percent in Q3-2017 from 73 percent in the corresponding quarter of 2016,” the bulletin read.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has recently reiterated his electoral pledge of opening 50 new resorts in the Maldives during his five-year term.

Eleven new resorts came into operation last year.

According to MMA, activity in the tourism sector started to pick up during the third quarter of the year after a slowdown in the previous quarter, reflecting the seasonal pattern of the sector.

MMA said tourist arrivals grew by 14 percent in quarterly terms to reach 340,469 in Q3-2017. In annual terms, tourist arrivals registered a five percent increase, maintaining the same pace of growth when compared with the corresponding quarter of 2016, it added.

The annual growth in arrivals was attributed to a significant increase in arrivals from Europe, followed by the Americas and the Asia and Pacific region. Russia, Germany, Italy and Spain were the main contributors to the growth in arrivals from Europe, while the US dominated the Americas region during the quarter, the central bank said.

“On the other hand, growth in arrivals from the Asia and Pacific region, stemming from higher arrivals from India and Thailand during the quarter was largely offset by the sizeable decline in arrivals from China,” the bulletin read.

According to MMA, the annual growth in resort bed nights recorded a strong growth of six percent during the quarter, reflecting higher arrivals coupled with a slight increase in the average duration of stay, which recorded six days in Q3-2017. However, total tourism receipts for the quarter are estimated to have dropped by two percent in annual terms, which can be attributed to a reduction in the rates, the central bank said.

Over the past five years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers, resulting in a rapid increase in new resort openings.

Singapore’s Park Hotel Group has opened its first resort in the Maldives, while major international hotel chains such as AccorHotels have entered the Maldives with two openings and two in the pipeline. Brands like Hard Rock InternationalCapella Hotel GroupCarlson Rezidor Hotel GroupEmaar Hospitality GroupMövenpick Hotels and ResortsBaglioni HotelsEmerald Collection and Meliá Hotels International have announced their entry to the Maldives as well.

Existing international players are also upping their presence, with Marriott International set to launchWestin brand, Hilton Worldwide to re-introduce its top-end luxury brand Waldorf Astoria, Aitken Spence Hotels and Resorts to introduce its Heritance brand, Minor Hotel Group to introduce its AVANI brand, and LUX* Hotels and Resorts to open its second resort in the Maldives. Centara Hotels and Resorts has also signed a management agreement for its fourth resort in the tropical destination.

Leading local hotel groups, including Atmosphere Hotels and ResortsSun Siyam Resorts, and Crown and Champa Resorts, have also announced expansion plans.

Meanwhile, the first integrated tourism developments in the Maldives — Emboodhoo Lagoon project and Rah Falhu Huraa lagoon project — are underway.

However, this rapid expansion of supply has resulted in a slowdown in growth in tourism, after years of double-digit growth. The government has set an ambitious target of attracting 1.5 million tourists by the end of this year, but the country has been struggling to create demand amidst a significant increase in bed capacity.

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 450 guesthouses in operation today.

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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