IATA says coronavirus outbreak to cost Maldives airlines $507 mln, risk over 28k jobs
Airlines in Maldives will likely lose more than $500 million in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, risking over 28,000 jobs, the global airline industry body has warned.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts 2,124,000 fewer passengers in the Maldives in 2020.
This 40 per cent year-over-year drop in demand, based on a scenario where severe restrictions on travel are lifted after three months, is expected to cause revenue losses of $507 million to local airlines and $1.24 billion in contribution’s to the island nation’s economy.
At least 28,800 jobs will also be at risk.
“Based on a scenario in which severe travel restrictions last for three months, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole will see passenger demand reduced by 37 per cent this year, with a revenue loss of $88 billion,” Conrad Clifford, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Asia-Pacific, was quoted in a statement, as saying.
“While each country will see varying impact on passenger demand, the net result is the same – their airlines are fighting for survival, they are facing a liquidity crisis, and they will need financial relief urgently to sustain their businesses through this volatile situation.”
All the domestic airlines in Maldives except the flagship carrier have suspended passenger operations and gone on stand-by.
All international airlines have also suspended scheduled operations to the Maldives, as the island nation enforced a blanket suspension of on-arrival visa in late March in a bid to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Even before the visa suspension, 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, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. 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 were also banned from entering the country.
All direct flights to and from China, Italy, South Korea and Iran were also cancelled.
Cruise ships and foreign yachts were also banned from docking at any of the country’s ports.
The 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.
Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.
However, tourist arrivals saw a year-over-year decline of 22.8 per cent in the first 10 days of March. Officials say the number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives could drop by half in 2020.
With arrival numbers falling and the visa suspension in effect, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.
Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.
However, the government is at present projecting a possible 5.7 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.
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.
Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.
However, 13 out of the 18 have made full recoveries. The five Maldivian patients are being treated at designated quarantine facilities, whilst the other two had been repatriated to their home country of Italy.
The 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 partial curfew in capital Male and its suburbs, and a nationwide closing of schools, colleges and universities. Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks have also been shut.
Restaurants and cafes in the capital have been asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.
A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands is also in effect.