Maldives is Europeans’ top holiday destination for 2021, Google data shows

Holidaymakers in the UK and around the world have had to put their trips on pause this year. However, travel trade professionals are already casting an optimistic eye to the future.

According to Google Trends, online searches for ‘2021 holiday’ have increased by an incredible 124 per cent since the end of March, so it’s clear to see that people are using this time in lockdown to research next year’s getaway.

Luxury travel company Kuoni was keen to find out just where in the world people are hoping to head for their much anticipated post-lockdown holidays.

To uncover 2021’s most dreamed of destinations, Kuoni reviewed data for 131 countries around the world, including the UK, to discover which countries travellers are searching fo on Google for next year.

Looking at the global data, the results show that the United Arab Emirates is the most popular destination for 2021, followed by Qatar, Canada, and the US, which all share joint second place, and Egypt at third place.

Continent by continent, the Maldives is Europeans’ top holiday destination for next year.

With an average of 6,000 monthly searches, it’s clear that travellers in UK and other European countries are dreaming of desert island escapes in the Maldives for their 2021 escape.

This picture-perfect archipelago is home to incredible island resorts where there’s little more to do than just relax, go snorkelling or diving, head out on sunset cruises and revive your body and mind at the spa.

Exclusive and luxurious, it’s easy to see why these string of paradise atolls have taken top spot.

“With various stages of lockdown still the case for many places around the world, it’s not surprising that lots of us are wanting to book something to look forward to,” Dean Harvey, Marketing Director at Kuoni, said.

“It’s fascinating to see how popular destinations differ from country to country and the upturn in Google searches matches the upturn in 2021 bookings we’ve seen in recent weeks, with Maldives holidays being booked the most.”

Mexico and Bali are also popular among holidaymakers in the UK and Europe.

The positive development comes as the Maldives prepares to reopen its borders to visitors 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 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 2,553.

Thirteen deaths have been reported and 2,229 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.

The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the third phase measures now active.

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