As festive season begins, Maldives records strong visitor demand

Resorts across the Maldives lit up for Christmas celebrations Sunday evening, as the world-renowned holiday destination continues to observe strong demand for the festive season.

December to April is considered the peak tourist season, as these months constitute summers in Maldives. Between December and April, the islands boast of dry weather, making it ideal for tourists to travel and enjoy the tropical environment.

Christmas celebrations in the Maldives. PHOTO/ KANIPHOTOSHOP

Resorts across the archipelago organise special activities for Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, which fall during the peak tourist season.

Although a recent increase in supply has led to a drop in room rates and occupancy all year round, several resorts are reporting high occupancy rates all throughout December. Many high-end resorts located close to the main airport are reporting full occupancy.

“We’re running full for the next two weeks,” an official from a luxury resort in South Male Atoll said.

Qaisar Naseem, the Group General Manager for leading local resort operator Villa Hotels and Resorts, said all five Villa resorts are seeing higher demand and occupancy rates compared to the festive season of last year. He attributed the increase in numbers to discounted rates and special offers given exclusively for the holiday season.

These developments are in line with the latest official figures.

According to the country central bank, an annual increase of 15 percent in operational bed capacity led to a fall in average occupancy rate of resorts to 68 percent in the third quarter of the year. However, the occupancy rate in November increased by 2.5 percent to reach 63.2 percent from 60.7 percent in November 2016.

Many resorts have also seen their rates soar for the festive season, reaching levels that had mostly been achieved before the recent tourism boom.

“Our average nightly room rate for December is USD 4,000,” an official from another high-end resort said.

As with every festive season, the Maldives’ main Velana International Airport has observed a high private jet traffic.

Figures from the Maldives Airport Company Limited (MACL) show that 26 private jets are at the apron as of Monday. About 130 jets are expected to arrive in the Maldives over the next 10 days.

“We might not be able to reach last year’s record of 53 on New Year’s Day alone, but the demand is exceptionally high. We’re catering to 12 jets a day on average,” an official from the state owned airport operator said.

Private jets parked at the Maldives main Velana International Airport on New Year’s Day 2016. PHOTO/ MACL

The Maldives has attracted 1,246,501 tourists over the past 11 months — a 6.8 percent increase from the 1,166,605 in the same period of last year.

After years of double-digit growth in tourism, the Maldives has over the recent years observed a slowdown in 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 a wave of new resort openings comes 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.

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

Main photo: Lily Beach Resort and Spa Maldives

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