Traveling to Maldives during COVID-19
The Maldives is a picture-perfect archipelago, situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and home to tiny coral islands which provide for natural isolation. The island nation is famous for its beauty and is celebrated as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world.
Due to the ongoing global pandemic, COVID-19, tourism had to come to a standstill and the country had to close its borders as part of the stringent public health measures taken to curb the outbreak.
After almost four months of closure, on 15th July, Maldives reopened its borders to tourists of all nationalities and welcomed them back to the sunny side of life. As the world recovers from the current situation, the government made the decision, fully confident in the safety measures and preparations to ensure the protection of tourists and people working in all tourist establishments. The resumption of the tourism industry was only given the go-ahead following extensive protocols, after important consultations with health professionals and relevant stakeholders.
During the first phase, only resorts and liveaboards in uninhabited islands resumed operations. The signature “one-island-one-resort” concept also ensures that visitors to the country are based in their respective resorts. Together, these unique arrangements make it easier for visitors to maintain social distancing, whilst enjoying a truly safe and secluded holiday.
On 15th October, guesthouses in inhabited islands resumed operations as well. Wearing masks is mandatory for tourists and locals at all times in these islands. The development of local tourism is further aided by the introduction of “Split-Stay.” At first, this was only permitted between resorts but as of 23rd October, the local Health Protection Agency (HPA) has permitted split stay between all tourist establishments, with prior approval as per the guidelines by the Ministry of Tourism (MoT).
All tourist establishments have been regulated to ensure that they are in line with the COVID-19 tourism guidelines; a COVID-19 safe tourism guideline was issued by the Ministry of Tourism along with a certification program to uphold proper safety and hygiene standards.
In conjunction with the reopening of borders, a marketing campaign called “Rediscover Maldives…the Sunny Side of Life” was launched by Visit Maldives, during a virtual campaign where top international media from 21 countries including the main source markets joined in. In September, the second segment of this campaign, “Rediscover Maldives Webinar Series”, also commenced in which 4 sessions targeted to different markets were conducted over a span of 2 weeks. During this webinar series, “A Dozen Must do Experiences in Maldives” was also launched. The aim of this campaign was to take viewers on a spectacular journey with a dozen unique experiences; some of them only attainable in the Maldives. It also showcased the uniqueness of the destination and created excitement by giving a rare glimpse of the destination through videos on several online and social media platforms.
As of 14th October, there are 3 COVID-19 hospital facilities in the greater Male’ region with 263 beds and an additional 5 COVID-19 hospital facilities across the country with 183 beds. Currently, there are over 11,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a total of 37 deaths. These cases are saturated in the greater Male’ region. Further to this, there are 21 active cases in inhabited islands and in 23 resorts, including 22 tourists and 34 staff.
However, the government, together with relevant stakeholders, are ensuring that the Maldives remains a safe haven for tourists to travel to and have enforced several measures to warrant this.
Firstly, all tourists are required to fill an online Traveler Health Declaration form within 24 hours prior to their departure to Maldives. At first a negative COVID-19 test result was not required but in September, the government made it mandatory for all tourists to present a negative COVID-19 test certificate within 72 hours prior to departure to Maldives. On 14th October, the government extended the validity time to within 96 hours prior to departure to Maldives, easing access for tourists embarking on long-distance and time-consuming flights. Additionally, all tourists are required to wear masks and will undergo thermal screening on arrival.
Maldives has been gaining recognition in the efforts to make it a safe destination for travelers. The country received the “Safe Travels Stamp” by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in recognition of the efforts to implement enhanced health and safety measures, in line with the WTTC global Safe Travels protocols.
Additionally, Velana International Airport received the ACI Airport Health Accreditation for consistent measures, which are in line with ACI’s standards in the “new normal” during the pandemic. Velana International Airport is the second airport in the Asia Pacific Region to receive the Health Accreditation.
The Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with Allied Insurance, has also introduced the first COVID-19 Travel Insurance in Maldives. This policy covers charges for services including isolation costs, medical treatment and transportation costs to isolation/medical facilities and consists of two plans; “Allied Inbound” and “Allied Inbound Plus.” The package covers 7 or more days and can be purchased before arriving in Maldives through the Allied Insurance website. More information can also be acquired through the toll free hotline 1600.
There are indications of tourism recovery as the tourism sector continues to gather momentum in getting back to its normal level of operations. This is evident with increased flight movements and tourist arrivals, as they gradually increase.