Maldives ranked second most Googled post-lockdown holiday destination

For most of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has stopped us from jetting off on any holidays, but as travel restrictions ease, which destinations are coming out on top for our post-lockdown holidays?

Official-esta.com has analysed Google Search volume data for the search terms “Flights to X” and “Holidays in X” to establish which countries we are searching for the most, based on annual global search volumes. You can view the full findings here.

With travel restrictions now easing and making it possible for us to head abroad on holiday once more, many people are now looking for the perfect destination to squeeze in a late summer holiday, or are planning ahead for 2021.

With a variety of locations to choose from, ranging from traditional European breaks on the Mediterranean, to long-haul holidays with more tropical climes, the choices for holidays are endless. But which destinations are we looking at the most for our post-lockdown escapes?

The data reveals the following top five countries that people are looking to travel to after lockdown:

  1. Italy: 1,939,440
  2. Maldives: 1,798,680
  3. Mexico: 1,722,360
  4. Thailand: 1,654,320
  5. Spain: 1,525,560

“With the last few months throwing both our lives and the travel industry into unchartered territory, it’s natural that some people may be rather apprehensive about returning to normal life and travelling as we were before,” Jayne Forrester, Director of International Development at Official-esta.com, said.

“With destinations around the world closing their borders, travel hasn’t been an option, but with these borders now re-opening, it’s great to see that even countries that were among the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, including China and Italy, are being considered for holidays in the near future.”

Italy comes top

Despite being one of the epicentres of the pandemic in Europe earlier in the year, Italy is revealed as the destination we are searching for the most when it comes to our next trip abroad, with over 1.9 million (1,939,440) average annual global searches.

Among those searching for holidays in Italy, more than 27,100 average monthly searches come from the United Kingdom, followed by the United States (4,400 average monthly searches).

With airlines such as EasyJet offering highly discounted flights to destinations across Italy, and reports of usually tourist-filled hotspots such as the Cinque Terre being almost entirely deserted, it could be the perfect time to visit for anyone dreaming of indulging in a rich Italian meal.

Additionally, Italy is currently on the list of countries that are exempt from FCO advice against non-essential travel, meaning that any visitors will not have to enter a 14-day quarantine period on their return to the UK.

Exotic destinations rank highly

The Maldives (1,798,680), Mexico (1,722,360) and Thailand (1,654,320) all appear among the top five destinations, despite the flight times all lasting around 12 hours.

The Maldives also ranks as the most searched destination among those in the UK with more than 98,600 average monthly searches for flights and holidays to the region.

With more than 1.7 million tourists visiting the Maldives in 2019, the country’s tourism minister described the pandemic as “more devastating than the 2004 tsunami and the 2008 global financial crisis” to their tourism industry.

However, the Maldives reopened to tourists from around the world on the July 15, without the need for mandatory quarantine periods or Covid-19 tests for visitors on arrival (a negative PCR test result is still required), making it a destination that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone wanting a luxury escape over the next few months.

Although Thailand may be one of the destinations we’re searching for the most, the country is still closed to international visitors. Domestic visitors have been allowed to travel within the country for more than a month, but it’s likely that flights will not be able to land until October and even then, tourists may be expected to remain within the country for a minimum period of 30 days.

China makes it into the top 15

China may have been the original epicentre and source of the Covid-19 virus, but that seemingly hasn’t put tourists off visiting the country.

With more than a million (1,077,840) average annual global searches, China ranks above many other popular destinations including Croatia, the Philippines and Barbados.

Looking at the numbers of those searching for holidays and flights to China, residents of the United States are those searching the most, with 41,900 average monthly searches, followed by those from the United Kingdom (11,700 searches), Canada (5200 searches) and Australia (4000 searches).

Although New Zealand has seen relative success with their management strategies over the last few months, and has been seen as one of the safer countries, the nation comes in 12th with 1,056,120 average annual global searches.

“It’s crucial that we begin to travel again, in order to generate revenue for the companies within the travel and tourism sector and ensure that we minimise any further job losses in the industry. As a result, we must find a balance between enjoying our travels and doing so in a safe and responsible manner, to prevent any further waves of the Covid-19 virus,” Forrester said.

The Maldives reopened its borders on July 15.

With the border reopening, 30-day free on-arrival visa is issued to all tourists with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country.

There is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival, but tourists have to complete an online health declaration form and provide a negative PCR test result taken at least 72 hours prior to their departure.

Visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms are also 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 8,990.

Thirty-one deaths have been reported, while 6,846 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.

Photo: Asad Photo Maldives

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