British, American tourists lead Maldives post-reopening arrivals
Maldives welcomed more than 900 tourists — most of them from the United Kingdom and the United States — in the first 10 days since the island nation reopened its borders, official figures have shown.
The country’s immigration department said 904 tourists arrived in the Maldives from July 15-24.
Britain and the US lead the arrival numbers, with 117 and 106 tourists, respectively.
Seventy-three German tourists also visited the Maldives, while 45 each from Switzerland and Russia arrived in the country for a much needed getaway after crushing lockdowns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Filipinos numbered 35, while 31 each from Spain and the United Arab Emirates arrived in the Maldives over the past 10 days.
Hungary and Egypt also contributed 30 and 23 tourists, respectively.
A total of 368 tourists were classified as other nationalities.
The positive development about arrival numbers from the UK comes as the British government considers including the Maldives on its ‘air bridge’ countries list, allowing the tropical destination hugely popular with British holidaymakers to welcome UK tourists without the need to self-isolate on return.
Meanwhile, travel firm Kuoni has revealed that travellers in the UK were planning to splash out on luxury Christmas overseas trips after settling for summer staycations, with demand for year-end getaways in Maldives on the arise.
Bookings for 2021 trips to the Maldives are also on the rise.
Recent Google search data has also shown the Maldives as the top holiday destination among Europeans for next year.
These positive developments come as the Maldives reopened its borders to visitors on July 15.
With the border reopening, 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 3,175.
Fifteen deaths have been reported and 2,498 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: Sun Online