Maldives begins 2018 with 13.6 percent hike in tourist arrivals

Maldives began 2018 with a positive 13.6 percent growth in tourist arrivals, official data has shown.

Official figures for the month of January released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 142,351 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 13.6 percent increase over the 125,336 tourists in January 2017.

Europe, the largest regional source market, posted an overall growth of 19.6 percent over January 2017, as arrivals increased to 76,603 from 64,030. Almost all the important European markets such as the UK (up 9.4 percent), Germany (up 6.7 percent), France (up 30.1 percent) and Italy (up 18.6 percent) made strong gains last month.

Asia followed the same growth trajectory, despite a fall in numbers from the Chinese market, which during the last two months of 2017 posted a stellar performance after major declines over the past two years. Arrivals from China decreased by 15.8 percent to reach 25,830 last month compared to the 30,669 in January 2017.

Major contributors to Maldives tourism from South East Asia posted strong performances in January, with arrivals from countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines increasing by 15 percent, 223.6 percent and 24.3 percent respectively. Arrivals from Singapore, however, declined by 3.8 percent.

Meanwhile, arrivals from South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, increased by 33.8 percent in January. This was largely due to a strong growth of 40.3 percent posted by the Indian market.

Relatively new markets continued their upward growth trajectory last month as well, as arrivals from the Americas were up 20.2 percent, Oceania up 43.2 percent and Africa up 20.5 percent.

Arrivals from the US, which has recently secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to the Maldives tourism industry, increased by 12.3 percent to reach 3,930 last month compared to the 3,499 in January 2017, while the number of visitors from Australia also increased by 42.5 percent. South Africa, which was once a major source market for the Maldives, also showed signs of recovery, as arrivals from the country increased by 45.6 percent in January.

Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, also posted a major increase of 40.3 percent in arrivals. This positive sign after months of falling numbers is largely due to growth in arrivals from major Middle Eastern markets such as Saudi Arabia (up 81.1 percent), United Arab Emirates (up 1.6 percent) and Egypt (up 47.8 percent). Arrivals from Qatar, however, declined by 37.9 percent.

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.

Over the past five 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 120. That number is set to increase as the government has announced the opening of some 20 new resorts 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 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.

Photo: Lily Beach Resort and Spa Maldives

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