The Maldives will be banning all tourist arrivals from midnight on Friday, March 27.
An announcement from the president’s office said that on-arrival visas would be suspended from midnight of March 27 but exceptions would be made for individuals with special permission like diplomats, government officials, and contract workers.
“We are aware of the impact of our measure; the tourism industry will come to a halt. But this is something we need to do considering the circumstances,” Maldives’ president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told reporters.
Howard Brohier, general manager of Diethelm Travel Maldives, said this decision was inevitable, due to the 13 infected foreigner cases – of which eight have recovered – in the island nation.
“My understanding is that the ban might be in force for one or two weeks, till the situation is clearer and is brought under control,” he said. As of March 13, Diethelm had 6,000 guests in the Maldives, which has now been reduced to 86.
Over 50 resorts have either closed their doors or are about to. For example, the country’s largest resort owner with eight properties, Crown & Champa Resorts, has indicated they will be shutting from April, with a reopening date set for end-June. The group earlier announced plans to open its ninth resort, Kagi Maldives Spa Island, later this year.
“Steps are being taken to ensure our teams will be there to welcome you back… when the time is right. Until then, stay home, stay safe and we will be ready when you are to visit the Maldives again,” said a statement issued by Crown & Champa Resorts.
Brohier believes that recovery will come in July or August, with the Chinese – the Maldives’ largest tourism source market – likely to be among the first to resume overseas travel.
Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, said that until now the country has been receiving a small number of tourists from Russia, the CIS, parts of Germany, Ukraine and Australia.
Restrictions were placed earlier on travellers from China, Iran, parts of South Korea, Italy, Bangladesh, parts of Germany, Spain, parts of France, Malaysia, the UK, the US and Sri Lanka.