Maldives launches webinar series to promote tourism in China

A series of webinars has been launched to promote the Maldives tourism in China, the country’s official tourism promotion body announced Thursday.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) said the 10-month-long series will educate Chinese travel trade partners about the Maldives position as a preferred tourist destination for Chinese travellers in the context of the current global coronavirus pandemic.

The inaugural webinar on Wednesday saw the participation over 500 travel agents from China.

During the webinar, an in-depth presentation about the Maldives tourism industry was delivered in Mandarin. Specific questions about the destination were answered during an interactive session held at the end of the webinar.

“Interest shown by the participants positively indicates that Chinese visitors will truly enjoy Maldives as a whole year travel destination,” a statement read.

MMPRC said Maldives tourism products, as well as the destination’s natural beauty and its unique aspects will be portrayed in the upcoming webinars. These sessions will be held under specific discussion topics based on the interests of potential Chinese tourists, it added.

“To make the upcoming webinar session more accessible, engaging and informative, a total of 17 Maldives tourism industry partners registered for the webinar session and will be delivering the latest information about Maldives tourism products and their properties,” the statement read.

“Conducting webinar sessions to train travel trade is a key marketing strategy implemented by MMPRC in key tourist markets across the globe. As Maldives moves towards post pandemic preparations to welcome tourists, we are embarking on digital platforms to promote the destination globally.”

As the Maldives biggest source market, it is projected that Chinese travellers will begin visiting the Indian Ocean tourist destination once its borders are reopened.

Before the pandemic, 31,744 tourist arrivals were recorded from China in January alone — a 23 per cent growth compared to the same period of last year.

Maldivian officials have been bullish on their ability to contain the coronavirus outbreak and reopen the country in the third quarter of the year.

The government has formulated five scenarios with possible timelines for reopening borders and the tourism sector.

The best case scenario sees the country reopen borders by May, but the most likely scenario projects a July date for reopening the borders and restarting tourism. In the worst case, borders may only open by January 2021.

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 1,216.

Four deaths have been reported and 91 have made full recoveries.

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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