Maldives posts double digit growth in tourist arrivals for second month

Maldives on Tuesday posted a double digit growth in tourist arrivals for the second month in a row despite heightened political instability.

Maldives has attracted a wave of bad publicity following the recent declaration of a state of emergency, which ended late last month. However, the political turmoil is strictly restricted to the capital city, away from the resorts and local islands where holidaymakers stay in.

Official figures for the month of March released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 133,466 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — an 18.5 percent increase over the 112,665 tourists in March 2017.

Europe, the largest regional source market, posted an overall growth of 33 percent over March 2017, as arrivals increased to 82,383 from 61,927. All the major European markets such as the UK (up 17.5 percent), Germany (up 43.8 percent), France (up 24.3 percent) and Italy (up 33.3 percent) made strong gains last month.

However, arrivals from Asia, the second largest regional source market, decreased 1.8 percent.

Arrivals from China declined by 27.5 percent to reach 13,203 compared to the 18,203 in March 2017. This decline, which came after a 38.1 percent growth in February and a decline of 15.8 percent in January, offset the rare gain in numbers from China and led to a 0.8 percent decline in arrivals from the Maldives’ single biggest source market for January-March period.

Major contributors to Maldives tourism from South East Asia posted strong performances in March, with arrivals from countries such as Malaysia and Thailand increasing by 66 percent and 108.1 percent respectively. Arrivals from Singapore, however, declined by 15.4 percent.

Arrivals from South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, declined for the second month in a row. Visitors from India, which is the most important market in the region, decreased by 1.8 percent in light of repeated travel advisories.

Meanwhile, relatively new markets continued their upward growth trajectory last month as well, as arrivals from the Americas were up 24 percent, Oceania up 49.4 percent and Africa up 11.4 percent.

Arrivals from the US, which last year secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to the Maldives tourism industry, increased by 22.4 percent to reach 4,043 last month compared to the 3,302 in March 2017, while the number of visitors from Australia also increased by 49.7 percent. South Africa, which was once a major source market for the Maldives, also posted a 42.3 percent growth after a seven percent decline in February.

Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, posted another disappointing 9.3 percent decline in March. This decline, after a rare uptick in January and a major decline in February, is largely due to fall in numbers from major Middle Eastern markets such as Saudi Arabia (down 17.3 percent), United Arab Emirates (down 14.7 percent) and Qatar (down 4.6 percent).

According to the March statistics, total arrivals for the first three months of the year increased by 17 percent to reach 420,103 compared to the 359,053 in the same period of last year.

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.

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