Covid surge threatens Maldives tourism

Tourism players in the Maldives are fearful that a recent surge in Covid-19 cases might affect the island nation’s tourism which has shown a remarkable recovery in arrivals since reopening its borders last July.

Germany, the Maldives’ fourth highest source market, raised its travel advisory last week to “high-risk” from “risk” for the Maldives due to a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 cases there.

Maldives tourism rebound may be derailed by a recent rise in Covid cases

Last Wednesday (May 5), the number of daily cases rose to 734 from 318 a week ago. On Sunday, the daily caseload was 590, with a total of 34,724 cases and 83 deaths.

Most of the cases are in the capital city of Male and other islands populated by locals, while tourism resorts haven’t been affected. The islands where cases have been detected are not visited by tourists, as they arrive at the international airport on another island and are then whisked by speedboat or seaplane to their resort destination.

“The high-risk classification (of the Maldives) by Germany could see some cancellations,” said the manager of an agency servicing German tourists, adding that it could also affect arrival figures from Europe if the number of Covid-19 cases continue to rise. “The problem here is that insurance premiums are high when travelling to risk-averse countries,” he said.

An industry source said that his property has not seen any cancellations of bookings by German guests so far.

He further shared that in recent weeks, there has been a surge in white-collar workers from India using the Maldives as a 14-day quarantine facility before flying to a third country to work or stay there.

“Generally, those from India have to seek a 14-day quarantine in a country outside India before they can travel to the Middle East, the UK, the US or other countries,” he said.

While restrictions have been placed on Indians travelling to other destinations due to an uncontrollable surge in the number of Covid-19 cases there, there is no restriction for Indian tourists arriving in the Maldives. Like any other tourist, they only need to show a valid negative PCR test result upon arrival, and are not required to serve quarantine.

However, since April 27, travellers from India are not permitted to stay at tourist facilities in inhabited islands.

The number of arrivals in the Maldives in the first four months of 2021 was 389,770 – higher that the 2020 figure of 382,760, but lower than the 2019 figure of 646,092. India was the largest source market, followed by Russia, Ukraine and Germany. However, Russia has since overtaken India as the Maldives’ largest source market, with Indian visitors reducing in numbers.

Update: The Maldives has since banned travellers from across South Asia from entering the island nation from Thursday (May 13) in a bid to curb the recent spike in Covid-19 cases. These restrictions apply to travellers originating from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, according to a statement by the Maldives Immigration. It added that the new restriction will also apply to travellers who have only transited through South Asia.

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