Maldives welcomes over 9,500 tourists in Sept, sees steady hike in arrivals since reopening
Travellers from Russia, United Arab Emirates and several European markets drove tourist arrivals to the Maldives in September to above 9,500, as the island nation tries to recover its tourism-dependent economy which had been hard hit by the global coronavirus pandemic.
The country’s immigration department said Sunday that 9,538 tourists visited the Maldives in September. That marked a 25 per cent increase over the August and pushed the total number of arrivals since the border reopening in July to 18,867.
The top 10 markets in September include:
- Russia: 2,065 (growth of 388 per cent over August)
- UAE: 1,029 (decline of 37 per cent from August)
- United States: 935 (growth of 39 per cent over August)
- United Kingdom: 625 (decline of 13 per cent from August)
- Spain: 466 (decline of nine per cent from August)
- Brazil: 444 (growth of 164 per cent over August)
- Germany: 362 (growth of 18 per cent over August)
- France: 279 (decline of seven per cent from August)
- India: 262 (growth of 142 per cent over August)
- Egypt: 232 (growth of 30 per cent over August)
Figures show that arrival numbers have been steadily rising since the border reopening on July 15, with the daily average of visitors climbing to 318 in September from 218 August and 100 in July.
The maximum number of arrivals on a day also increased to 696 in September from 373 in August and 218 in July, while the minimum number of daily arrivals stood at 97 in September compared to 71 in August and 32 in July.
The positive development about arrival numbers reflect strong demand seen by travel agents and tour operators in several source markets. It also follows the resumption of scheduled passenger services by several global airlines.
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.
Meanwhile, air connectivity between the Maldives and several major tourist source markets is also improving.
Emirates (six times a week; to increase frequency to daily flights from this Wednesday), Etihad Airways (twice a week), Qatar Airways (daily), Turkish Airlines (once a week), Edelweiss (twice a week) and SriLankan Airlines (daily) currently operate scheduled flights to the Maldives.
Flydubai will resume flights to the Maldives from October 27 with four times a week service, while British Airways will offer three weekly flights from London Heathrow to Male from October 16.
From December 1, SilkAir will also introduce twice a week service on the Singapore-Male route.
The Maldives reopened its borders on July 15.
Resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands as well as liveaboard vessels were allowed to host tourists (please see a rolling list of resort reopenings here).
Guesthouses and hotels located on inhabited islands were to be allowed to reopen on August 1 but a surge in coronavirus cases in capital Male forced the authorities to extend a ban on guesthouse operations until October 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 10,530.
Thirty-four deaths have been reported, while 9,364 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.