As we mark the 48th anniversary of tourism in Maldives, we look into an overview of the industry. From the beginning in 1972 to the way forward post pandemic.
The beginning – 1972
Tourism in the Maldives started with just two resorts, Kurumba Island Resort followed by Bandos Island Resort, with a capacity of about 280 beds in 1972. Maldives was said to have welcomed the first tourists in February 1972.
The white sandy beaches and the crystal-clear turquoise waters soon managed to attract tourists worldwide and the country was soon labeled as a paradise destination. Now, with over 100 resorts, Maldives is the bucket-list destination for every traveler around the world.
Guesthouses – 2009
Maldives was labeled as an epitome of luxury. The tourism sector was dominated by high-end resorts for decades.
However, the industry diversified in 2009. Permission was granted to operate guesthouses in the local islands that brought about a revolution to the tourism industry in Maldives. Since then guesthouse sector has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in the tourism industry. By the end of 2019, Maldives has over 600 guesthouses operating nationwide, giving more options for travelers.
At its peak – 2019
The year 2019 proved to be one of the most successful years with reaching target of 1.5 millionth tourist arrival on November 24th, Maldives welcomed a record amount of 1,702,831 tourists.
The tourist arrivals from Europe (49%) was with a 14.8% increase and 833,904 tourists in 2019. The second strongest performance was from Asia and the Pacific (41.4%). There were 705,117 tourists from this region in the year. This is a 13.5% increase compared to 2018. This was followed by American countries (5%) with 84,793 tourists, Middle East (3.5%) with 60,003 tourists and Africa with 18, 698 tourists.
The Pandemic -2020
Encouraged by the massive influx of tourists, Maldives set an ambitious target for 2020: receiving 2 million tourists. That was before COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill.
The crisis has wreaked havoc on the global economy, and Maldives was no exception. The lucrative tourism industry has been hit hard where finding the path to recovery made it a lot harder.
Maldives reopened borders to all nationalities from 15th July 2020. Travelers are given 30-day tourist visa on arrival and are not subjected to undergo any quarantine measures.
As the industry slowly tries to move forward with the new normal, split stays have been re-introduced and to make the destination a safer place for all, effective from 10th September 2020, all visitors are required to have certificate of negative PCR test result for COVID-19, with the sample taken 72 hours prior to departure to Maldives, counting from the first port of embarkation en-route to the Maldives.
Maldives has welcomed 402,089 tourists by August 2020. The destination 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. The borders were reopened 4 months later and prior to the lockdown, Maldives welcomed around 380,000 tourists within the first 3 months of the year.
The Minister of Tourism Dr. Abdulla Mausoom revealed that the government is expecting an influx of around 120,000 tourists starting from September until the end of the year, making the total estimated figures to 500,000 tourist arrivals (in total) for the entire year.
The “one island, one resort” concept gives Maldives an edge over other destinations. The island nation of Maldives is a naturally self-isolated paradise, with 1192 islands scattered along a length of 871 kilometres. The unique geography of the destination prevents contact between locals and tourists as well as tourists between two resorts. So, tourists are guaranteed with no worry of local spread into the resort. The islands are beautifully socially distanced from the city and the crowd, which makes for a perfect holiday destination post the pandemic.
Moreover, the luxury style villas in Maldives gives the chance for travelers to social distance in style. The destination has also been listed among the 100 safest countries for COVID-19 in the world and has achieved the Safe Travels Stamp, which is endorsed by the World Tourism Organization and more than 200 travel companies.
Moving forward with all this, Maldives tourism will move forward and get back up. The sun will shine again.