Kuoni sees Maldives bookings soar into top spot for 2021

Luxury global travel company Kuoni is seeing a clear upturn in bookings for 2021 trips – and almost two-thirds of all bookings are for the Maldives.

Turquoise oceans, secluded islands and attractive offers for luxury retreats are being cited as some of the reasons why the Indian Ocean archipelago is emerging as the holiday destination most in demand for 2021.

The lure of secluded, long-haul luxury is evident with the UK-based Kuoni have witnessed a clear booking increase over the past seven days, driven by attractive offers for all-inclusive Crusoe-style islands and isolated retreats, particularly for honeymoons and special occasion trips.

“Bookings for the Maldives are outperforming every other destination we sell around the world, currently accounting for 56 per cent of bookings for 2021. The Maldives has always been our best seller but it’s soaring even further ahead right now,” chief executive Derek Jones said.

“Whilst there is still so much uncertainty around plans to open borders, the 14-day quarantine and social distancing people are telling us that they’d rather plan ahead for next year and save to make the trip an extra special one, upgrading what they’d normally do.”

The Maldives was on track to have one of its best years for tourism this year, being listed at number one in the Kuoni Worldwide Travel Report for the 17th consecutive year. A crop of new resorts scheduled to open has seen the destination diversify its appeal for children, younger couples and groups of friends or extended family.

Based on Kuoni’s data from last week alone the Maldives continues to lead the way in terms of demand with 56 per cent of the overall bookings for 2021, followed by Mauritius, Thailand, Spain and India.

“We were pioneering in developing tourism to the Maldives, and we continue to work hand-in-hand with the destination now as it looks to reshape its tourism industry and map out a plan to welcome people back to the islands,” Jones said.

“People are increasingly turning to us for our advice and expertise, we’re working more closely with our destination partners than ever before so our travel experts are informed and able to help people plan their trips, but with the reassurance of flexibility but with the all-important human touch.”

The Maldives is preparing to reopen its borders to visitors in July.

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.

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 1,916

Eight deaths have been reported and 925 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.

The restrictions in the capital region are now being eased in phases, with the first phase lasting at least until mid June. Most restrictions remain in place for the time.

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