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Maldives will need $1.2 bln to shore up economy, UN expert says

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Maldives will need $1.2 billion to shore its economy against the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a United Nations expert has said.

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, who heads the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) international trade division, said small island developing states would need about $5.5 billion to counteract the adverse effects of the pandemic on their economies.

The Maldives stands out with a need of $1.2 billion due to its reliance on tourism revenues, she added.

“It is expected that for many small island developing states, the Covid-19 pandemic will lead directly to record amounts of revenue losses without the alternative sources of foreign exchange revenues necessary to service external debt and pay for imports,” Coke-Hamilton said, in a post by the UN communications department about the economic impact of the pandemic on small island states.

The Maldives is looking to borrow $233.37 million from international lenders to plug the gap in balance of payments stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Funds already pledged by international lenders include $28.9 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), $20 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development, $17.3 million from the World Bank, and $3.28 million from the European Union.

In the meantime, the government will borrow MVR 4.2 billion ($272 million) under an overdraft facility at the central bank to cover state expenses and maintain public services amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

All international airlines have 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.

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 13 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.

A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 527.

Only one death has been reported and 18 have made full recoveries. Five remain in intensive care.

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 stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, 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.

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Weixin Pay supported to boost Chinese tourists to Maldives

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On May 27, Zihuny Rasheed, Deputy Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC/Visit Maldives), and Etienne Ng, Weixin Pay’s Country Manager, Singapore and Regional Director, Southeast Asia, WeChat Pay, signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during ITB China 2024, pledging to support more Maldivian merchants to accept WeixinPay to provide Chinese tourists with a convenient payment experience. Visit Maldives is the Official Destination Partner for this year’s edition of ITB China.

“China is a key source of tourists for the Maldives, and we greatly value the experience of Chinese visitors,” said DMD Zihuny Rasheed. “We plan on promoting the acceptance of Weixin Pay throughout the country, offering Chinese tourists the payment option they are familiar with and prefer. I have used Weixin Pay during my visit to China via linking an international card, and I can attest to the convenience of the mobile payment option.”

Ibrahim Faisal, Minister of Tourism of the Maldives, expressed his support, “Excited that we’re introducing Weixin Pay for Chinese visitors, which is another step in establishing Maldives as their top destination. Now, it’s easier than ever for Chinese travellers to enjoy their stay, hassle-free. We look forward to further enhancing their experience,” he wrote.

According to Etienne Ng, Weixin Pay is currently being piloted at the country’s airport duty-free store, as well as in popular restaurants like Sala Thai and City Garden. Additionally, a range of hotels and resorts are participating including, JEN Maldives Malé by Shangri-La, Adaaran Select HudhuranFushi, Adaaran Club Rannalhi, Adaaran Prestige Vadoo, Adaaran Prestige Water Villas, Velaa Private Island, Cheval Blanc Randheli Private Island, Dhawa Ihuru Maldives, Ayada Maldives, Marriott Bonvoy, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and Angsana Velavaru in Maldives with strong support from the Bank of Maldives and local merchants. Making smooth progress, the initiative is expected to have 8,000 merchants nationwide that integrate the payment option.

“Weixin Pay is committed to providing users with safe and convenient payment services. Since the visa exemption policy was implemented, more and more Weixin Pay users have chosen to travel to the island country. Through our cooperation with Visit Maldives, we aim to provide Chinese users with the same convenient experience in the travel as they experience at home,” he said.

In February 2023, an Agreement on Mutual Exemption of Visa Requirements signed between the Maldives and China took effect as China expands its visa-free policy to benefit more countries. Consequently, the Maldives has consistently ranked among the top overseas destinations for Chinese tourists during popular travel periods such as the May Day and National Day holidays.

According to data from Visit Maldives, the country welcomed over 1.8 million tourists in 2023, a new national record. The Chinese market has been a key source market for the Maldives. As of 11th May 2024, it is the number one source market with 91,073 tourist arrivals.

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Indian influencer Niki Mehra in Maldives

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Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC/ Visit Maldives) hosted a familiarisation trip with Amilla Maldives for high-end influencer, Niki Mehra, from India to experience the luxury and romantic offerings of the Maldives from 3rd – 6th May 2024.

The familiarisation trip was a great opportunity to Niki Mehra, a renowned Indian model, fashion, beauty and travel content creator and social media influencer with over half a million followers who has carved a niche in the Indian fashion industry with her unique sense of style. During her time in the Sunny Side of Life, Niki Mehra showcased luxury to romantic experiences of the destination.

The trip promoted Maldives through social media platforms of Niki Mehra while highlighting experiential itinerary offerings of the Maldives. Additionally, the influencer trip assisted MMPRC in propelling growth in the luxury travel segment and honeymoon market by showcasing the Maldives as a premier honeymoon destination for the Indian travellers.

The Indian market has been a strong market for the Maldives over the years, currently ranked number 6 with 46,970 tourists as of 13th May 2024. Additionally, MMPRC showcased the Maldives in OTM and SATTE held earlier this year. MMPRC is committed to boosting the arrivals from the market and has exciting marketing activities planned for future, including joint campaigns, familiarisation trips, participation in major events and other campaigns which provides numerous opportunities to showcase the breathtaking Maldives to the market, attracting more Indian travellers.

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130 hotels in The Prestige Collection with 4 Maldives properties

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The Prestige Collection has reached 130 hotels in its portfolio, continuing to uphold quality and excellence as core pillars. It represents the most exclusive selection within Keytel, the world’s first alliance of independent hotels.

Since its establishment in 2007, The Prestige Collection has been dedicated to meeting the growing demand for luxury hotels, becoming a reference for hospitality industry specialists. Despite its focus on independent hotels, the collection has successfully attracted prestigious properties from international luxury chains such as Rosewood Villa Magna, Mandarín Oriental Ritz Madrid, and Fairmont Mayakoba in Riviera Maya. These hotels view The Prestige Collection as a complement to their commercial strategy for attracting luxury clientele.

With a prominent presence both nationally and internationally across 36 countries, The Prestige Collection shines in with four distinguished resorts: Baglioni Resort Maldives, Diamonds Athuruga Maldives Resort & Spa, Diamonds Thudufushi Maldives Resort & Spa, and Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa. Internationally, the collection boasts emblematic properties like Armani Dubai, Café Royal in London, The Pierre in New York, and Kappa Senses in Ubud, Bali, among others.

The collection categorises hotels into four distinctive categories, highlighting ideal places to disconnect, properties in vibrant urban settings, coastal options for those seeking serenity, and unique experiences for those seeking singularity.

Furthermore, this milestone coincides with the relaunch of its new experiential website platform. This platform offers users and industry professionals the opportunity to explore the collection in greater detail and drives qualified traffic to the official websites of member hotels.

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