Maldives tourism revives over holiday season

Tourism in the Maldives, which reopened its borders in mid-July after a near four-month lockdown, is picking up with a surge in arrivals expected for the festive season.

“The year-end arrivals are looking good and some of this credit should go to the Maldivian authorities for aggressive destination marketing,” an industry official said.

Maldives expected to receive over 500,000 arrivals for 2020

Beating 22 other countries to bag the highly coveted World’s Leading Destination award at last month’s World Travel Awards – the most prestigious awards in the tourism industry – has also helped to boost the Maldives’ reputation as a tourist destination, said Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) managing director Thoyyib Mohamed.

“We have been continuing destination marketing even during the lockdown. Last month, we launched a global media campaign and currently have 47 other marketing activities with B2B and B2C campaigns,” he said, adding that source markets including Russia, Ukraine, the UK, India and the US were doing well.

He said the Maldives saw 35,759 arrivals last month, and is on track to reaching its target of 100,000 arrivals from mid-July to year-end by December 15. Meanwhile, the total arrivals for the year is expected to be a little over 500,000 arrivals, a steep decline compared to pre-Covid figures but commendable given the restrictions on outbound travel in many source markets.

Abdulla Ghiyas, deputy managing director at Inner Maldives Holiday, said many airlines were returning to the Maldives, in part due to the island nation being one of the few Asian countries with borders open to leisure travellers. “We are seeing many expatriates from the Middle East also visiting the Maldives,” he said, adding that based on the upward trajectory, next year’s target has been revised to one million from 600,000.

The number of Covid-19 infections detected in the island nation has also reduced since borders were reopened on July 15, and were mostly confined to the capital Male – far away from the remote resorts, added Ghiyas, who is also the former president of Maldives Association for Travel Agents & Tour Operators.

Meanwhile, 10 resorts have acquired their own Covid testing machines and are awaiting Health Ministry clearance, a facility until now only offered by Soneva resorts in the Maldives.

Another industry official from a DMO, who declined to be named, said the surge in visitor arrivals has surprised many sector players. “(Demand in forward bookings) is really looking good and we expect occupancy of 60-65 per cent during the festive season, as compared to 70-75 per cent in the past few years,” he said, noting however that prices have been marked down by 30-50 per cent to attract visitors. Still, he added: “Even if prices are low, the cash injection with growing arrival numbers is vital to sustain the resorts.”

Correction: This report has been updated to correctly state that Abdulla Ghiyas is the former president of Maldives Association for Travel Agents & Tour Operators. 

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