Maldives emerges as luxury travellers’ favourite for post-coronavirus holidays
Maldives has emerged as one of the hot options among affluent travellers as they plan their vacations after the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey by the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM).
The survey, which polled over 1,000 personal travel advisors worldwide, showed that the global luxury travel market will likely rebound within a year, with most wealthy travellers planning their next vacation in 2020.
Two-thirds (64 per cent) of those surveyed said they had taken travel bookings from their clients amid the Covid-19 pandemic with more than 50 per cent of those bookings due to take place before December.
Some 72 per cent of concierge companies received substantial bookings. Of the air travel already booked, 39 per cent is domestic and 27 per cent is long-haul trips.
More than 50 per cent of all the planners and agents surveyed said they were confident the industry will rebound within a year. Of those yet to take a booking, 72 per cent anticipate a climb in bookings within three months.
The way luxury consumers travel are also set to change, with 59 per cent respondents saying that luxury automobile travel have emerged as their clients’ preferred choice for their first holidays.
“My clients are in contact constantly to ask what is open and what is safe – they are keen to go where and when they can as soon as possible. As the luxury travel market rebuilds outside the US, many of my clients are flying domestically, but also driving to explore their own country in the most affluent way,” Brittney Magner of Royal Travel & Tours in the US, was quoted in a statement, as saying.
“These first trips will be closer to home as families start to come together again, and the research also showed a preference for private villas too. Shorter trips were also preferred, meaning there could be more of them as the opportunity to ‘catch up’ occurs. The use of private jets is also high up on preferences so that their trips can be taken at short notice and allows for group travel to be within their own family and friends.”
The survey also found that of those considering other kinds of travel, 25 per cent are looking at river, sea and international cruises.
High-end travellers are also opting to spend their first leisure trips with family – more than half having already booked family travels, with almost 73 per cent planning to stick closer to home.
Maldives, Greece, Italy and the Caribbean have emerged as hot options among the affluent.
Top choices for respondents’ next leisure trips are beach escapes, family travel, private villas, natural wonders, road trips, cruises, cultural, and unique excursions or experiences.
At the same time, over 20 per cent showed preferences for sustainable and conscious travel, with health and wellness related itineraries coming in as a first choice.
The positive development comes as the Maldives prepares to reopen its borders to visitors on July 15.
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.
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 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 2,491.
Twelve deaths have been reported and 2,113 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.
Photo: The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort