Maldives offers airport charges waiver, discounts to lure airlines in tourism restart
Maldives is offering a range of incentives, including a full waiver of airport charges during the initial stages, to international airlines operating scheduled flights, in a bid to give a much-needed boost to the country’s hard-hit tourism industry after the reopening of borders in July.
Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), which runs the main Velana International Airport, said ground handling, landing, navigation and parking charges will be completely waived off from July 15 to August 31 for scheduled services.
Airlines operating scheduled services from September 1 to October 27 will get a 75 per cent discount on round handling, landing, navigation and parking charges.
A 50 per cent discount will be offered from October 28 to March 26, 2011.
“Due to the unprecedented Covid-19 outbreak, the aviation industry is undergoing a massive impact that has crippled air transport activities to a staggering halt. Since air transport is an integral part of the operations and business of VIA, it is crucial to focus on resumption of flights as soon as possible,” acting Managing Director Moosa Solih was quoted in a statement, as saying.
The Maldives is preparing to reopen its borders on July 15.
Maldivian officials have said that a majority of international airlines that operated scheduled flights to the Maldives before the coronavirus pandemic will resume their operations in July.
Officials from MACL earlier said that SriLankan Airlines was planning to operate three daily flights between Colombo and Male as soon as the borders were reopened.
Qatar Airways also had plans to fly once a day on the Doha-Male sector, MACL officials had said.
According to MACL, other airlines that had applied for slots for July include:
- Emirates: one daily
- Etihad Airways: twice a week
- Hong Kong Airlines: twice a week
- IndiGo: two daily
- Singapore Airlines: one daily
- Silk Air: two daily
- Turkish Airlines: five days a week, two services per day
With the borders reopening on July 15, resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands as well as liveaboard vessels can begin hosting tourists right away.
Guesthouses and hotels located on inhabited islands will be allowed to reopen on August 1. Passengers on cruise ships and yachts will be barred from disembarking at inhabited islands until then.
Thirty-day free on-arrival visa will be issued to all tourists with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country. The entire holiday has to be booked at a single facility except for transit arrangements.
There will be no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival. Tourists will only have to complete a health declaration form.
But visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms will be tested at their expense.
The coronavirus outbreak has also 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, only 382,760 tourists visited the Maldives before the country closed its borders on March 27. It was a 40.8 per cent decline over the 646,092 that visited the Maldives from January to March last year.
With arrival numbers falling, several resorts across the Maldives suspended operations.
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 2,305.
Eight deaths have been reported and 1,875 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.