Maldives tourism recorded its highest growth in 15 years in April 2019, setting up expectations for a good year among trade members.
While January to April arrivals were up by 19.7 per cent to 646,092, arrivals in April alone rose by 36.3 per cent to 163,114 against the same 2018 month.
“This is the highest growth achieved for any month since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,” tourism minister Ali Waheed told journalists in the capital Male last week.
Howard Brohier, general manager at Diethelm Travel, Maldives, believes 2019 could be a good year ending with healthy growth in occupancy and arrivals.
For Jan Tibaldi, general manager at One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives, factors such as group and festive bookings also contributed to growth in 4Q2018 and 1Q2019.
Despite the destination’s solid arrivals performance, Andrew Ashmore, chief commercial officer at Coco Collection Hotels & Resorts/Sunland Hotels said most hotels are struggling with occupancy for May, due to the “massive increase in supply”.
The Maldives is increasingly becoming more mainstream as opposed to its traditional image of a luxurious destination, he added, with the proliferation of new resorts proliferating in the past two years.
Strong performances during January-April 2019 came from India with 48,875 arrivals (up 95.3 per cent from the same 2018 period), Italy (up 36 per cent to 67,891) and Germany (up 31 per cent to 54,862).
Phenomenal growth was also recorded in the month of April from China (up 24 per cent to 18,704), Germany (up 94 per cent to 17,583), Italy (up 79.3 per cent to 15,043) and India (up 129.5 per cent to 12,823).
China is the Maldives’ largest source market.
It is not just arrivals that have spiked. The Maldives is also seeing a surge in international hospitality investments, prompting some industry players to seek a more authentic positioning to better compete.
“Over the past years, international brands have entered the market, increasing the number of resorts in operation to more than 130. With such constant development, I think authenticity is becoming a rare commodity, so offering authentic experiences (has become essential),” Tibaldi said.
Meanwhile, some are cautiously optimistic about demand in the months ahead.
Diethelm’s Brohier said that although May to July bookings are below the expected volume, this could be due to the off-peak seasonality. “The trend (tends) to normalise towards August which is great. (Having said that) it is important to understand if performance in the last three months of the year would be good.”