Maldives records over 100,000 tourist arrivals
The year 2020 started with high hopes of reaching 2 million tourist arrivals, as Maldives completed 2019 with a record-breaking amount of 1.7 million tourists for the first time. The month of January was triumphant as Maldives recorded a 14% increase in tourist arrivals as opposed to the previous year. With this laying the foundation for another victorious year, the country was anticipating a successful year ahead. However, it was disrupted by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in border closure and ceasing of flight operations.
The lockdown began and Maldives immediately began adapting to the new situation, and the government and tourism industry got together to brainstorm and project the course of the pandemic. The operational efforts were adjusted to evolving situations and the process of preparing for the reopening of borders initiated in phases.
On 15th July 2020, Maldives reopened its borders to tourists of all nationalities with the reopening of several resorts and liveaboards. Guesthouses also resumed operations on 15th October 2020. Currently, there is no mandatory quarantine for arrival but all tourists are required to fill an online health declaration form within 24 hours prior to departure and submit a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, conducted maximum 96 hours prior to departure to Maldives.
The reopening of borders brought about a lot of challenges but President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih made the solid decision to do so after careful consideration, and the implementation of several stringent health and safety measures in the country. All tourist establishments are required to follow the guideline given by the Ministry of Tourism and the local Health Protection Agency, HPA.
Maldives was one of the first countries to reopen its borders and even during such unprecedented times, the tourism industry remained vigilant and worked towards increasing tourist arrival numbers. In this regard, 2020 ended with the celebration of over 500,000 tourist arrivals for the year, and over 100,000 tourist arrivals since the reopening of borders.
On 10th February 2021, a total of 121,694 tourist arrivals were recorded, and according to the Ministry of Tourism, out of this, 29,591 arrivals were from 1st to 10th February. Presently, the top source market for tourist arrivals is Russia, followed by India and United Kingdom. Other top markets include Ukraine, Germany, United States, France, Kazakhstan, Romania and United Arab Emirates.
Currently, there are over 140 resorts and over 330 guesthouses in operation, along with over 135 liveaboards and 11 hotels. There are 27 airlines connecting Maldives to the rest of the world.
On 1st February 2021, Maldives commenced the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and First Lady Fazna Ahmed were two of the first to receive their first doses of vaccine, along with other government officials, and frontline workers. The vaccine was administered at a special ceremony held at the Male’ Social Center to launch the COVID-19 vaccinations in Maldives. Vaccines are to be initially administered in Male’ City, Addu City and in Kulhudhuffushi.
President Ibrahim Solih stated that the government aims to provide free COVID-19 vaccine to all citizens and residents of Maldives, in the coming months, and also emphasized on the importance of individual responsibility and caution even during this time of renewed hope.
With the commencement of vaccination, up until 10th February 2021, 20,161 people have been vaccinated and the process is still ongoing vigilantly. The Ministry of Tourism also launched an initiative to vaccinate people in the tourism sector to create an even safer scenario for the industry. This was initiated at Male’ Social Center. The Minister of Tourism, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom, stated that vaccination arrangements will be made in resorts for the convenience of resort employees and added that vaccination teams would travel to bigger resorts in the future.
The initiation of the vaccination drive is bound to bring hope to the local population, as well as ensure the safety of tourists. This gives the message that Maldives is a low-risk destination for travelers, and will hopefully bring about a surge in tourist arrivals. Further to this, with vaccinations commencing worldwide, numbers are expected to increase, say experts. It is equally important to highlight that the current health and safety measures are still in place, and will be followed strictly in compliance with the Ministry of Tourism and HPA.