Maldives expands market reach as tourism recovery continues

The Maldives is looking to promote travel to differently-abled people and other niche traveller segments as it continues to rebuild tourism.

Speaking at a press conference this week that coincided with the UNWTO Global Summit on Community-based tourism and the golden jubilee celebration of tourism in the Maldives, tourism minister Abdulla Mausoom said: “We are expanding our markets and not relying only on our traditional sources.”

Deputy tourism minister Naushad Mohamed said the Maldives will facilitate travel for differently-abled people, and promote business events, sports tourism and culture tourism

The destination has lost its main source market, China, as a result of the pandemic. China made up 16.7 per cent of arrivals to the Maldives in 2019, or 284,029 travellers, but between January and March 2022, there were only 971 Chinese visitors.

Since reopening to international travellers in July 2020, the Maldives has become one of the most successful tourist destinations today. Average length of stay among visitors to the Maldives has risen from 7.5 nights pre-Covid to 8.5 nights.

Despite the Ukraine invasion, Russian travellers showed up strongly for the Maldives, recording 52,235 arrivals in January-March 2022 compared to 26,284 for the same period in 2019.

Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director/CEO of the state-run Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, also shared that the UK and Italy are performing well, bringing 50,584 and 52,848 travellers respectively to the destination in January-March 2022. For the same period in 2019, the two markets recorded 36,116 and 30,036 footfalls respectively.

“We are doing well in comparison to other (destinations),” Abdulla said, adding that the government is targeting 1.4 million to 1.6 million arrivals this year – higher than 2019’s arrival records of 1.48 million.

To build towards that ambition, the Maldives will grow business travel arrivals, facilitate travel for differently-abled people, as well as promote business events, sports tourism, culture tourism, shared deputy tourism minister Naushad Mohamed.

According to Ahmed Nazeer, secretary-general of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry, resorts across the destination are working towards welcoming corporate groups of 30 pax and more.

“While Maldives is perceived as a holiday destination, there is a market out there for business travel and event engagements,” he remarked.

The Maldives’ tourism recovery is supported by a continuous stream of new products. Some 23 resorts are in various stages of development, and will soon join new properties that have recently opened.

Velana International Airport opened a new VIP/CIP complex earlier this year as part of the facility’s US$800 million expansion programme, which will add a new runway, passenger terminal, seaplane terminal, a 45-million-litre fuel farm and a cargo facility when the project is complete later this year.

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