Maldives tourist arrivals post 1.5 percent growth in September

Maldives has reported an increase of 1.5 percent in tourist arrivals in September, as the Chinese market shows signs of a rebound after a prolonged period of negative growth.

Official figures for the month of September released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 107,620 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 1.5 percent increase over the 105,984 tourists in September 2017.

Europe, the largest regional source market, posted an overall growth of 10 percent over September 2017, as arrivals increased to 44,008 from 40,014.

The UK, which is the single biggest European source market, made a gain of 8.1 percent, while several other major European markets such as Italy, France and Spain also posted gains of 15.5 percent, 22.3 percent and 24.7 percent respectively. Arrivals from Germany, the second largest European source market, also increased by 3.6 percent in September, following a decline of 7.7 percent in August.

Russian travellers continued to show their appetite for the Maldives, as arrival numbers jumped 7.6 percent in September to reach 3,790 from 3,522 in September 2017. This strong performance last month translated into an impressive growth of 20.3 percent in arrivals from Russia in the past nine months of the year.

Arrivals from Asia, the second largest regional source market, decreased for the second consecutive month.

However, the Chinese market posted a gain of 2.9 percent after double digit declines for the past two years, as arrivals increased to 27,997 from 27,214 in September 2017. This performance narrowed the decline in arrivals from the Maldives’ single biggest source market for the January-September period to 6.2 percent.

Several major contributors to Maldives tourism from South East Asia, which has been posting strong gains over the past year, rebounded after declines in August, with arrivals from countries such as Malaysia and Singapore increasing by 37.3 percent and 11 percent respectively. However, arrivals from Thailand decreased by 32.4 percent.

South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, also extended its decline for the third consecutive month after posting major gains for the first seven months of the year. The latest decline of 29 percent is due to negative growth in arrivals from almost all South Asian markets, including India (down 22.7 percent) and Sri Lanka (down 25.5 percent).

Despite mixed performance in established markets, growth in relatively new markets such as the Americas rebounded after declining in August — the first negative growth in emerging markets in almost a year.

Arrivals from the US, which last year secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to the Maldives tourism industry, increased by 14.2 percent to reach 3,133 last month compared to the 2,744 in September 2017, while the number of visitors from Australia also increased by 33 percent. South Africa, which has been on the recovery, also posted an increase of 48.8 percent.

Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, posted another decline of 27.3 percent in September, as arrivals from almost all major Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates posted negative growth of 17.5 percent, 19.7 percent, 33.6 percent, 25.4 percent and 36.1 percent respectively.

According to the September statistics, total arrivals for the past nine months of the year increased by 8.3 percent to reach 1,080,459 compared to the 998,009 in the same period of last year.

Maldives had early last month welcomed the one millionth visitor of 2018.

In addition to a new wave of recent political turmoil and presidential elections, the Maldives is currently experiencing the traditionally low season.

May to November is considered the low tourist season, as these months constitute rainy season in Maldives. Between May and November, the islands boast of wet weather, making it less ideal for tourists to travel and enjoy the tropical environment.

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 last year 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: Kihaa Maldives

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