The Maldives, one of the few countries in Asia open to international tourists amid the ongoing pandemic, is likely to end 2020 with over 500,000 arrivals, marking a far cry from the record 1.7 million arrivals to the island resort in 2019, not to mention the targeted two million this year.
The island nation was the first in the region to lift border restrictions amid Covid-19, welcoming global tourists back on July 15, at first with no entry restrictions until a series of outbreaks across several resort islands had it tightening entry requirements in September. While at least 100 resorts have been in operation, the reopening of guesthouses were delayed until October 15.
According to government statistics, over 400,000 tourists arrived in the Maldives from the beginning of the year until the pandemic forced its border closure on March 27. Since its reopening on July 15 through October 14, the island nation has welcomed about 26,000 foreign visitors, with Russian tourists making up the majority with 4,817 arrivals.
Despite the slow uptick, industry officials retain an optimistic outlook going forward. “The pick-up is slow, but encouraging,” said Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) managing director Thoyyib Mohamed.
Tourism minister Abdulla Mausoom said during a tourism discussion on October 10 that over 100,000 tourist arrivals are expected to be recorded in the remaining months of the year.
In the meantime, the Maldives has launched a thee-tiered loyalty programme, Maldives Border Miles, touted as the first-of-its-kind in the world.
Slated to kick off on December 1, tourists who enroll in this programme will earn points based on the number of visits and duration of stay. Additional points will be awarded for visits to celebrate special occasions. There are three categories in this programme: Aida (bronze tier), Antara (silver tier) and Abaarana (gold tier). Each tier will be defined by a set of rewards, services and benefits, which will increase in value as members progress.
Initiated by Maldives Immigration, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and the MMPRC, the scheme will allow eligible guests to enjoy free stays or upgrades in hotels and resorts. A discussion is also underway to bring airlines on board the programme.