Maldives launches ‘world-first’ loyalty programme to reward tourists with ‘border miles’
Maldives on Sunday launched a loyalty programme — dubbed the first of its kind in the world — to reward tourists visiting the country, in a bid to boost tourism after reopening the Indian Ocean tourist destination’s borders to visitors.
Tourism minister Abdulla Mausoom inaugurated the Maldives Border Miles programme, at a ceremony held Sunday evening to celebrate the World Tourism Day 2020.
“The Maldives Border Miles programme, which was launched today, is a programme which will increase the popularity of Maldives as a tourist destination and provide a path for more marketing and advertising opportunities. In addition, I think that this will further enhance the popularity gained in the key markets of Maldives tourism,” the minister said.
The Maldives Border Miles programme, initiated by Maldives Immigration and developed jointly with the tourism ministry, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), will come into effect on December 1.
“Our sincere hope is that this programme aids in increasing the destination presence and produces a beneficial impact on the tourism industry, as well as increase the tourist arrival rate in the future,” MMPRC Managing Director Thoyyib Mohamed said.
“We look forward to its successful implementation in the approaching days.”
The programme has three tiers: Aida (bronze), Antara (silver) and Abaarana (gold). Each tier is defined by a set variety of rewards, services and benefits, which increase in value as members progress.
Participating tourists will be rewarded with points based on the number of visits and duration of stay. Bonus points will be awarded for visits to celebrate special occasions.
“The hotel reception is not where the tourists begin their holiday. Their awaited journey begins from the welcoming smile of the immigration officer at the border, which indeed narrates the initial chapter of a memorable vacation,” Immigration controller Mohamed Ahmed Hussain said.
“With the introduction of Maldives Border Miles, we are prepared to welcome them with privileges and facilitate an experience like never before.”
Tourism authorities and stakeholders expect the loyalty programme to boost tourism considerably as they see it as an added advantage in promoting the Maldives. It is also a golden opportunity for returning visitors to rediscover the best of Maldives and get the most out of their visit to the “Sunny side of life”.
“Maldives Border Miles programme is an innovative way to attract global travellers to the Maldives,” Gordon Andrew Stewart, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of MACL, said.
“To support this, we are focused on our passengers and staff health. We have taken a number of steps to assure that Velana International Airport is a safe airport, for all our travellers. We recently attained the Airport Industry Association (ACI) International Health Accreditation certification. This certificate recognises the steps we have implemented to ensure we have all the required health and safety measures in our airport to assure passengers of their safety, while travelling through the airport.”
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 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 10,098.
Thirty-four deaths have been reported, while 8,847 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.