Maldives launches Thomas Cook collapse impact assessment

An assessment has been launched to determine the impact of British tour operator Thomas Cook’s collapse on the Maldives’ tourism industry, the island nation’s government announced Wednesday.

Tourism minister Ali Waheed told journalists that a joint assessment with the economic and finance ministries is being conducted to determine any potential impact of Thomas Cook’s collapse on the Maldives’ main economic activity. Challenges faced by local travel companies will also be assessed, he added.

“Thomas Cook had been a major player in the Maldives’ tourism industry and its collapse will definitely affect our industry. But we are taking this as an opportunity and we’re prepared to do what’s necessary to mitigate any damage,” the minister said.

“We’ve met with officials from Thomas Cook as well to get a clear understanding of the situation. We’re confident that we can turn this around and ensure that our industry partners do not suffer.”

The Maldivian authorities have put in place necessary measures, including a dedicated help desk, at the country’s main Velana International Airport to ease the situation for holidaymakers waiting to return home. Efforts are being made to provide food, assistance and accommodation.

Minister Waheed noted that assistance has been provided to some 804 tourists in Maldives affected by Thomas Cook’s collapse. More tourists booked via Thomas Cook are expected to arrive in the Maldives over the next 24 hours as well, he added.

The minister stressed that the Maldives will not send away any tourist. Accommodation had been arranged at the airport transit hotel for those needing it, whilst several resorts have provided complimentary holiday packages to some affected by the situation, he said.

“The Maldives is known for its warm hospitality. We will work with our industry partners to accommodate any and all tourists affected by this unfortunate situation. I’ve personally met some who were devastated because of this situation,” the minister said.

“Some tourists have been offered discounted packages as well. We’re doing everything possible to ensure that the Maldivian holiday experience that people the world over had come to enjoy and love.”

Thomas Cook’s 178-year existence of came to an end on Monday after the British travel firm failed to find private investment to keep it afloat, affecting thousands of holidaymakers.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is co-ordinating the repatriation, the biggest in peacetime, after the tour operator “ceased trading with immediate effect”. UK authorities hope to get some 16,000 holidaymakers back home on chartered flights.

Thomas Cook had secured a £900m rescue deal led by its largest shareholder Chinese firm Fosun in August, but a recent demand from its lending banks to raise a further £200m in contingency funding had put the deal in doubt.

The holiday company had spent all Sunday in talks with lenders trying to secure the additional funding and salvage the deal, but to no avail.

Its plea for government aid was also rejected.

Customers on a package holiday have Atol protection – a fund paid for through industry levies – which will cover the cost of their holiday and repatriation.

Thomas Cook has blamed a series of issues for its problems including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.

But the firm has also faced fierce competition from online travel agents and low-cost airlines.

In addition, many holidaymakers are putting together their own holidays and not using travel agents.

Thomas Cook had been one of the leading European tour operators to the Maldives, with the firm heavily contributing to the growth of the UK market in Maldives’ tourism.

The latest official figures released by the Maldives’ tourism ministry put the UK at the fourth position amongst the top source markets to the Maldives with a marketshare of 7.4 per cent. Visitor numbers from the UK saw an increase of 11.1 per cent to reach 73,262 during the first seven months of the year.

Thomas Cook also runs a resort on the island of Eriyadu under its “smartline” brand.

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