Maldives offers rent relief for airport spaces to boost virus-hit tourism, aviation

Maldives is offering airlines, hotels and other service providers with a presence at the country’s main airport hefty discounts on rent, in a bid to give a much-needed relief to the country’s hardest-hit tourism and aviation businesses.

A 50 per cent discount will be offered on the monthly rentals payable from March to July 15 for airline offices, airline engineering, storage spaces, other office spaces, and telecom outlets. The discount will continue from July 16 to October 15 as well but at 25 per cent.

A 50 per cent waiver on the rent payable from March to July 15 will also be granted for tourist representative counters and resort pavilions. The waiver will be lowered to 25 per cent for the period from July 16 to October 15.

Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), which runs the main Velana International Airport, said rent invoices already raised will be adjusted by issuing a credit note to effect the discounts.

“As a foremost airport service provider in the Maldives, our accomplishment has always been the success of our business partners. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) has observed significant impact from all type of businesses at Velana International Airport (VIA) as there were zero commercial activities due to the flight cancellations,” a statement read.

“Therefore, upon monitoring and analysing the effects on partners, the management of MACL decided to offer rent waiver, discount to Covid-19 impacted airline and airport partners as well as tourism associates at VIA.”

The discounts on rent come weeks after MACL offered a range of incentives, including a full waiver of airport charges during the initial stages, to international airlines operating scheduled flights after the reopening of borders.

Ground handling, landing, navigation and parking charges are being completely waived off from now and until 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.

The Maldives reopened its borders Wednesday after more than three months.

Resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands as well as liveaboard vessels are now allowed to host tourists (please see a rolling list of resort reopenings here).

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.

Meanwhile, the government’s best case scenario now puts total tourist arrivals for 2020 just above 800,000.

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 2,899.

Fifteen deaths have been reported and 2,339 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.

Photo: Sun Online

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