The devastation that COVID-19 has caused on countless industries is still becoming clear. The travel businesses are one of the hardest hits. An estimated 96% of the worldwide destinations has been told to stay at home, and avoid unnecessary trips. That means almost nobody is flying.
Maldives ceased on arrival visa to all tourists from 27th March 2020 as a precautionary measure to curb the spreading of COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Previously, the government took border control measures including for key markets such as China, Italy, certain regions of Germany and France.
The tourism industry has come to a halt with the travel ban imposed by the government. This has ceased international flights that ultimately reduced the domestic flights and suspended the aviation industry operations in Maldives.
Let’s look into how long will it take for Maldives aviation industry to restart.
Cancellation of travel restrictions and border closures, especially internationally:
Airline industry has taken a major hit because of the travel restrictions and border closures. Only few airlines operate in Maldives right now are the cargo flights used to transport goods and much needed medical equipment to the country.
All domestic flights have come to halt due to the first confirmed case from the capital Male’ city on 15th April.
A local airline manager revealed that though tourist visas are ceased indefinitely, Maldives should conduct some more outgoing international flights for the expats who are stranded in Maldives as well. The confirmation of community spread in the capital city Male’ will come worrisome to those expats as it is a small place and the city is very much congested.
The national airline Maldivian has been conducting repatriation flights to bring home the stranded Maldivians abroad due to the pandemic. The airline has also conducted repatriation flights from Maldives to South Africa, Mauritius and Thailand. Qatar airways is said to conduct a flight on 21st April to Doha, which could be the latest international outgoing passenger flight for few months to come.
While local airline professionals predict aviation to restart in Asian region during months after August, aviation in Europe and globally is expected to reboot after February 2021.
Looking into the aviation predicted timeline for the top 10 markets, the earliest possible market to start flights to can be for China as being the epicenter of the pandemic, they are now able to rebounce back. Chinese market professionals have even revealed revenge spending on luxury goods at China which in turn is predicted to subsequently increase the spending on traveling as well. Maldives can therefore consider opening borders to China around August.
India, which will be lifting the lockdowns on 3rd May, have already allowed their carriers for domestic flights to commence on 4th May. Their national carrier has announced plans to commence international flying from June 1 in a phased manner to selected destinations. The aviation professionals say flights to India and Russia could therefore begin between months Aug – Sept.
Other European markets along with America are still under lockdown so flights to countries like Italy, Germany and USA is predicted to commence between Dec to Jan. To UK, it will probably be after Feb 2021 while flights to France and Australia could be in months after October.
Airports will need to adapt health measures
To help regain travelers’ trust after the pandemic abates, the air travel industry will need to implement new health regulations, especially in airports.
The Minister of Tourism Ali Waheed has announced that Maldives will be promoted as a COVID-19 free nation to implement ‘Safe Tourism’. This could be a good start for the tourist destination.
Authorities will need to further ensure this by depicting strong safety measures starting form airports with health screening posts. As airport serves as the first greeting place to the destination, this will give the travelers reassurance.
Focus on the markets
For a small island nation like Maldives, tourism industry and airline industry are very much correlated. Local airline managers have revealed that it all depends on the authorities as to which market the destination wants to focus.
“If things do not take a significant turn, Maldives aviation can expect to slowly restart in August. This will begin with South East Asian countries with carriers like Sri Lankan Airlines, Chinese carriers, Cathay Pacific and for Bangkok flights. Based on the other factors, the remaining USA and European markets as they are still hit hard by this pandemic, Maldives can focus on those markets by December,” an international airline manager in Maldives revealed.
It is certain that the airline industry throughout the globe is critically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed that airline passenger revenues are set to plunge by 55%, or US$314 billion in 2020.
Maldives airline industry will also take months to weather this storm. However, with support by the government and the efforts by the airlines operating in Maldives, the industry has the possibility to fully bounce back to how it was sometime after February 2021. In many instances, destinations have already adjusted their restrictive measures as the situation has evolved and Maldives could follow.