Maldives kicks off 2020 with 14.4 per cent hike in tourist arrivals

Maldives has begun the year with a 14.4 per cent increase in tourist arrivals.

Official figures for the month of January released by the tourism ministry on Saturday show that a total of 173,347 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 14.4 per cent increase over the 151,552 tourists in January 2019.

Europe, the largest regional source market, dominated the arrival figures with a marketshare of 54.6 per cent, as arrivals from European countries recorded year-over-year growth of 28.1 per cent to reach 94,725 in January.

Asia Pacific followed closely with a marketshare of 35.6 per cent. Arrivals from the region recorded year-over-year growth of 11.9 per cent to reach 61,688 in January.

The relatively new American market, which recorded year-over-year growth of 11.6 per cent, secured a marketshare of 4.7 per cent, as arrivals from the US reached 5,051 in January, whilst the Middle East and Africa had a marketshare of 4.2 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively.

China maintained its position as the top contributor to Maldives tourism with a marketshare of 18.3 per cent. Arrivals from China recorded year-over-year growth of 23 per cent to reach 31,744 in January.

India, which had overtaken traditional European markets to claim the second spot last year, slipped to the third position in January, as growth in arrivals from the Maldives’ closest neighbour decelerated to 19 per cent compared to 37 per cent a year ago.

India was the best-performing individual market in 2019, as arrivals recorded year-over-year growth of 83.5 per cent to reach 166,015 from 90,474 in 2018.

Italy, which had lost the second place to India last year, regained its position as the second biggest source market with a marketshare of 12 per cent by the end January, as arrivals from the Maldives’ oldest source market increased by 23.8 per cent to reach 20,766 from 16,768 in January 2019.

Russia claimed the fourth position with a marketshare of 7.2 per cent, whilst the UK slipped to the fifth with a marketshare of 6.2 percent.

Germany, one of the most important source markets, was knocked out of the top five source markets. The Western European market was ranked the sixth, as growth in arrivals slowed to 0.4 per cent in January.

Two of the most notable high performing markets in January include Saudi Arabia and Switzerland.

Arrivals from Saudi Arabia increased by 130.9 per cent to reach 4,992 from 2,162 a year ago, helping the biggest Middle Eastern market to claim the ninth spot on the list of the top 10 source markets. Switzerland, meanwhile, posted year-over-year growth of 2.4 per cent, making it the 10th biggest contributor to Maldives’ tourism in January.

This positive growth in tourism, the mainstay of the Maldivian economy, comes amidst preventive measures against the spread of the new coronavirus.

Maldives has closed its borders to arrivals from mainland China and cancelled all direct flights to and from China.

The island nation had installed thermal screening cameras at its international airports. Quarantine facilities, including designated islets from the 1,192 islands that make up the archipelago, had also been established.

No confirmed cases had been found in the Maldives. Close to a dozen Maldivians that had travelled to China were quarantined for possible symptoms, but were later discharged after they were tested negative.

The Maldives welcomed 1.7 million tourists in 2019. It was a 14.7 per cent increase from the 1.48 million tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2018.

Meanwhile, the government has announced an ambitious target of attracting at least two million tourists to the popular Indian Ocean holiday destination in 2020.

The government aims to attract 2.5 million tourist arrivals per year by the end of its first five-year term in 2023.

To achieve this target, the government had added MVR 50 million (USD 3.23 million) to the annual marketing budget of the tourism ministry.

In the state budget for 2020, the government had allocated MVR 154.2 million (USD 9.98 million) for tourism promotion — up from the MVR 104.2 million (USD 6.7 million) in 2019, and MVR 34.73 million (USD 2.2 million) each in 2018 and 2017.

However, challenges remain as the world-famous holiday destination struggles to match demand with a rapid increase in 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 150. 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.

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