Maldives’ tourist arrivals post record half-yearly growth

The first half of this year recorded the highest growth in tourist arrivals in the first half-yearly period in the past five years, the Maldives’ tourism promotion body announced Thursday.

Thoyyib Mohamed, Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), told journalists that tourist arrivals to the Maldives in the first half of the year observed year-over-year growth of 19 per cent.

“This is the best January-June period for tourist arrivals since 2013,” he said.

Thoyyib attributed the success to new and existing efforts by his corporation and the industry to promote the Maldives’ tourism. The activities carried out by MMPRC include:

  • 15 trade fairs in 12 markets
  • Five roadshows in 13 markets
  • 13 media fam trips
  • 11 promotional activities carried out via worldwide PR agents
  • 12 joint promotional activities
  • a training programme for guesthouses

“We’ve more promotional activities, including fairs and roadshows, lined up for the rest of the year. We’re also in the process of drafting our destination marketing plan for the coming year. We’ll evaluate the effectiveness of the activities carried out this year and make any necessary revisions,” Thoyyib said.

The MMPRC chief highlighted the strong growth observed in key traditional source markets such as Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. Arrivals from emerging markets such as the United States, Australia and India have also recorded significant growth, he added.

“We will work on maintaining the strong growth observed in markets like India, whilst focusing on emerging markets such as the US and Australia,” Thoyyib said.

Maldives has welcomed over a million tourists this year, as the destination attempts to reach an ambitious target of 1.5 million visitors over the next three months.

The one millionth visitor of the year arrived in the Maldives on August 2 — a month ahead of last year. In 2018, the one millionth mark was reached on September 9, whilst it was celebrated in October the previous year.

Official figures for the month of July released by the tourism ministry early this month show that a total of 132,144 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — an eight per cent increase over July 2018.

According to the July statistics, total arrivals for the past seven months of the year increased by 17.2 per cent to reach 994,733 compared to the same period last year.

All the top five source markets posted positive growth in arrivals by the end of July.

China maintained its position as the top contributor to Maldives tourism with a marketshare of 17.4 per cent, as arrivals from China increased by 7.6 per cent during the January-July period to reach 172,834.

India, which had overtaken traditional European markets to claim the second spot, maintained its position, as the Maldives’ closest neighbour retained a marketshare of 9.4 per cent with a 99.2 per cent growth in tourist arrivals during the past seven months of the year.

Italy, which had in May lost the second place to India, maintained its position as the third biggest source market with a market share of 8.1 per cent. Arrivals from Italy increased by 32.3 per cent to reach 80,713 in the January-July period.

Germany and the UK, which slid to fourth and fifth position in May, exchanged places, as the UK claimed the fourth position with a marketshare of 7.4 per cent, whilst Germany’s market share dropped to 7.2 per cent by the end of July. Arrivals from Germany grew by 10.4 per cent to reach 71,479 during the past seven months of the year, whilst visitor numbers from the UK saw an increase of 11.1 per cent to reach 73,262 during the period.

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.

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