Maldives emerges as Indians’ favourite destination for post-Covid getaway

Maldives is the most popular choice among Indians to take their first post-pandemic international vacation, according to a new survey.

Travel tech company Pickyourtrail surveyed more than 2,500 urban travellers from major Indian metros to study trends that will shape the travel landscape in 2020 and 2021.

According to the survey, about 52 per cent modern Indian travellers are hopeful about taking their first post-pandemic holiday before December, and are likely to opt for direct flights and self-drive over connecting flights for safety reasons.

Homestays (23 per cent), boutique properties (21 per cent) and premium hotel chains (44 per cent) have been voted as the preferred accommodation choice among travellers across the age groups of 20-34 years and 35-44 years.

The Maldives, mainly being a stay-in destination, emerged as the most popular choice among Indians to take their first post-Covid international break.

The findings show that Indians are apprehensive about booking long-haul destinations at the moment and will rather place their bets on express getaways closer home, such as the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Dubai and Bali.

“The world, as we knew it, has been fundamentally changed by Covid-19. What the world needs more than ever today is a holiday! Interestingly, the survey report reflects this positive travel sentiment as people are hopeful of taking their first post-Covid holiday in less than six months from now,” Hari Ganapathy, co-founder of Pickyourtrail, said.

“The Maldives has again topped the list as the most popular destination among young couples planning their honeymoon, followed by express getaways like Dubai, Sri Lanka and Bali. It is also interesting to find that at least 70 per cent travellers are willing to spend more on enhanced on-trip safety.”

The positive development comes as officials from the Maldives and India explore a possible ‘air bridge’ or ‘travel corridor’ between the two South Asian neighbours.

India was the fastest growing source market for Maldives tourism in 2019, as arrivals recorded year-over-year growth of 83.5 per cent to reach 166,015 from 90,474 in 2018.

The Maldives reopened its borders to visitors on July 15.

With the border reopening, 30-day free on-arrival visa is issued to all tourists who has 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 is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival. Tourists have to complete a health declaration form only.

But visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms are tested at their own 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.

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 4,446.

Nineteen deaths have been reported, while 2,693 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.

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

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