Maldives parliament okays ‘no quarantine, no new tax’ policy for post-coronavirus tourism

Parliamentarians in Maldives have approved the government’s proposals to open the country’s borders without quarantine requirements for visitors and to charge no new taxes from tourists.

The government had in May shared with the parliament draft guidelines on reopening the borders.

Parliament on Wednesday voted to approve the Maldives Safe Tourism Guidelines with its own recommendations. The suggestions include:

  • Not to impose any taxes or fees other than those levied prior to Covid-19
  • To establish a mechanism that allows tourists to visit the Maldives without being subjected to quarantine measures

“The People’s Majlis has requested the President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to share the recommendations with the Ministry of Tourism and facilitate a seamless, smooth process for the incoming tourists,” the parliament said, in a statement.

Maldives has rolled back harsh restrictions, including on-arrival coronavirus testing and 14-day mandatory quarantine for all visitors, as well as fees proposed in the first draft of the guidelines.

Tourists will also be given free on-arrival visa.

Holidaymakers are also promised “better holiday packages” and “no new fees and no additional costs”.

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.

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 2,094.

Eight deaths have been reported and 1,670 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 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 were also shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital were 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 was also ordered.

These measures allowed authorities to contain the outbreak.

More than half of the people who contracted the virus have recovered and daily recoveries have over taken the number of new infections detected per day.

The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the second phase lasting at least until June end.

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