Maldives tourist arrivals post 21 per cent growth in June

Maldives posted an impressive growth of 21 per cent in tourists arrivals in June despite the Indian Ocean holiday destination facing the traditionally low summer season.

Official figures for the month of June released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 113,475 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 21 per cent increase over the 93,786 tourists in June 2018.

The strong performance is mostly due to a significant rise in tourist arrivals from the traditional Europe market, which recorded a 22.4 per cent growth, and the relatively new Asia Pacific market, which recorded a 16.2 per cent growth.

After posting a rare decline of 3.8 per cent in May, the largest regional source market of Europe posted a growth of 22.4 per cent in June, as arrivals increased to 37,678 from 30,774 a year ago. Important European source markets such as the UK (up 10.6 per cent), Germany (up 29.3 per cent), France (up 36.1 per cent) and Italy (up 24.9 per cent) recorded positive growth.

Chinese market, which has rebounded after two years of major declines, recorded a 4.1 per cent growth, as arrivals reached 23,983 in June from 22,853 a year ago. This strong performance widened the increase in arrivals from the Maldives’ single biggest source market for the January-June period to 10 per cent.

Growth in South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, also accelerated by an impressive 89.4 per cent in June, thanks to a 116 per cent increase in arrivals from India. A total of 15,875 tourists visited the Maldives in June from its closest neighbour compared to the 7,348 a year ago.

However, several major contributors to Maldives tourism from South East Asia, which have been posting strong gains over the past year, posted declines in June for the second month in a row, with arrivals from countries such as Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand decreasing by 37.1 per cent, 18.9 per cent and 29.8 per cent, respectively. Arrivals from Singapore, however, increased by 29.7 per cent.

Relatively new markets such as the Americas maintained their strong performance in June.

Arrivals from the US, which has secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to Maldives tourism, increased by 12.9 per cent to reach 3,533 last month compared to the 3,129 in June 2018. However, the arrivals from Australia posted a rare decline of 1.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, posted positive growth of 68.3 per cent after major declines for the past several months. Arrivals from almost all major Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia (up 88 per cent), Kuwait (up 44.5 per cent), Egypt (up 27.1 per cent), Qatar (up 57.9 per cent) and the United Arab Emirates (up 70.9 per cent) posted positive growth.

According to the June statistics, total arrivals for the first six months of the year increased by 18.7 per cent to reach 862,589 compared to the 726,515 in the same period last year.

Maldives welcomed a record 1.4 million tourists in 2018. It was a 6.8 per cent increase from the 1,389,542 tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2017.

Meanwhile, government has revised its forecast for the number of tourists visiting the island nation this year, increasing the estimate to a record 1.6 million from 1.5 million.

This positive growth in the tourism industry comes amidst concerns by private organisations representing industry stakeholders such as the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) over the lack of effort and budget to promote the Maldives as a destination.

These concerns come as the world-famous holiday destination struggles to match an increased bed capacity.

Over the past few 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 more than 130. That number is set to increase as another 20 resorts are expected to open 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 500 guesthouses in operation today.

The previous government announced 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.

Meanwhile, the new government has pledged to ramp up tourism promotion.

Reflecting the new government’s pledge, the state budget for 2019 includes MVR 104,200,000 (USD 6.7 million) for tourism promotion, up from MVR 34,733,333 (USD 2.2 million) this year and the previous year.

Photo: Adaaran Resorts Maldives

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