Maldives’ worst-hit tourism industry backs preventive measures, financial stimulus package

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) on Monday backed a series of unprecedented preventive measures and a stimulus package announced by the island nation’s government in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The representative body of the tourism industry, the mainstay of the country’s economy, said the government has been taking “timely and efficient” steps to prevent a potential outbreak of Covid-19 in Maldives.

“We also convey our heartfelt gratitude to the frontline health workers, for the work they are doing to combat the crisis,” a statement issued by the association read.

MATI also said an emergency MVR 2.5 billion ($161.84 million) facility and a package of financial measures announced by the government last week will help ensure “the sustainability of not just the tourism industry, but the entire economy as well”.

“MATI reaffirms its complete support to the government in this unprecedented period and will continue to work closely with all relevant governmental authorities to ensure the sustainability of the tourism industry and the entire economy of the country,” the statement read.

“We hope the above mentioned measures will get the country out of the Covid-19 crisis and lead to a full economic recovery.”

The global coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

From the hospitality industry to the airline sector, companies have warned that their long term survival is under threat.

Several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.

Government on Thursday launched an emergency MVR 2.5 billion ($161.84 million) facility and a package of financial measures to shore up the local economy against the coronavirus pandemic.

The MVR 2.5 billion stimulus plan includes MVR 1.55 billion ($100 million) in emergency loans for businesses to meet short-term working capital needs.

The emergency facility is complemented by a package of financial measures, including a six-month moratorium on principal and interest repayments for personal and business loans sanctioned by commercial banks.

Meanwhile, Bank of Maldives (BML) has announced a $2 million short-term financing facility for the tourism industry.

The facility by the country’s largest bank allows operational resorts and guesthouses finance up to $2 million to manage their working capital requirements, with a repayment period of three years.

On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago. Eleven more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels — were later identified.

However, three out of the 13 have made full recoveries, whilst the rest are being treated at designated quarantine facilities.

Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.

The public health emergency declaration has allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including a ban on inter-island travel of tourists, including for excursions and between resort islands.

A nationwide shut down of all guesthouses and city hotels has also been ordered. Spa facilities located on inhabited islands have also been closed.

The Maldives had closed its borders to arrivals from some of the worst-hit countries, including mainland China, Italy, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Visitors from three regions of Germany (Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg), two regions of France (Île-de-France and Grand Est) and two regions of South Korea are also banned from entering the country.

All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran had also been cancelled.

Cruise ships and foreign yachts had also been banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.

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 been established.

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