Maldives regulates tourism data collection, introduces dedicated portal

Authorities in Maldives have made it mandatory for tourist establishments across the archipelago to submit relevant statistics and have introduced a new portal, in a bid to regulate the management of data related to the island nation’s lucrative tourism industry.

Under a set of new regulations that came into effect Monday, tourist establishments have up to three months to register on the new Tourism Information Management System.

Resorts, hotels, guesthouses and liveaboard vessels are required to submit monthly reports on occupancy levels and tourists arrivals categorised by their nationality before the seventh day of the following month.

The tourism ministry can also request information about employees and send questionnaires for marketing purposes. It can also direct tourist establishments to provide additional information at times of crises and emergencies.

All establishments have to keep their records for at least two years. Liveaboard vessels can keep their records at their head office ashore, but resorts, hotels and guesthouses have to keep them on-site.

Failure to maintain and submit the records will incur a fine of MVR 100 ($6.45) per registered bed. A second and third violation will increase the fine to MVR 250 ($16.13) and MVR 500 ($32.27) per registered bed, respectively.

If tourist establishments violate the regulations for more than three times in a row, they will have to pay a fine of MVR 1,000 ($64.53) per registered bed, with the total penalty capped at MVR 100,000 ($6,453).

The fine has to be paid within seven days. If not, the establishment risks losing its operating licence.

The new regulations come as the Maldives prepares to reopen its borders to visitors in July.

The country’s tourism ministry has drafted and invited comments from industry stakeholders on its own guidelines on reopening the borders.

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.

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.

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 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 1,829.

Seven deaths have been reported and 488 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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