Universal Resorts extends coronavirus closures to Oct 1

Universal Resorts has delayed the reopening of its resorts, extending the closures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic until October 1.

The Maldivian hospitality group had in April closed all of its eight resorts for three months.

In separate but similarly-worded statements posted on social media, the resorts said their reopening had been rescheduled to October 1 due to “many challenges”, including the “safety of our guests and team members, along with flight connectivity to the Maldives”.

“We sincerely apologise if your booking is affected with this decision. We are in the process of contacting our guests and business partners, in order to assist further,” the statements read.

The resorts said travel is still limited to regional destinations, but international travel is also expected to begin soon as conditions improve around the world.

“As things slowly improve globally, we are very much encouraged to see our valued guests planning their next stay with us. … we hope that it will not be too long before we welcome you back to our island,” they said.

“Our island is simply not the same without the presence of you, our valued guests. We are gearing up now to open our doors to welcome you from October 1, 2020 onwards.”

Universal Resorts is a pioneering establishment that has led the development of the travel and tourism industry in the Maldives for over 46 years, playing a key part in the transformation of the country from an island nation to one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world.

The group now operates one of the largest resort collections in the country, including iconic properties such as Kurumba Maldives, Velassaru Maldives, Kuramathi Maldives, Baros Maldives, Kandolhu Maldives, Dhigali Maldives, Milaidhoo Island Maldives and Faarufushi Maldives.

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 2,120.

Eight deaths have been reported and 1,677 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.

Photo: Faarufushi Maldives, a resort operated by Universal. PHOTO/ FAARUFUSHI

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