Trav Maldives is a travel agency based in Maldives with a branch in the UK. They offer expert and passionate advice towards finding the right hotel for their clients. Furthermore, they are the most well-known company in bringing Chinese tourists to Maldives.
As the leading market in the Maldives tourism industry, our team at Corporate Maldives deemed it fit to get some insight into the Chinese market and its trends from one of the pioneers of the market. Hence, we interviewed with Abdulla Latheef on the Chinese market and everything on its present and future.
Could you give us a short introduction to your company?
Trav Maldives was registered in 2013 and we began operating the company in 2014. Our primary focus is on high-end luxury resorts and clients. When it comes to the tourists in Maldivian resorts, a large volume of clients are brought to Maldives through our company.
What do you believe cause the decline in the Chinese market in the past few months?
Photo: LUX* North Male Atoll
China is a large market in Maldives and occupies the largest market share in the Maldivian tourism industry. However, there has been a decline in the Chinese market in these past few months. There a few reasons that such a decline has happened. One of the several reasons, in my opinion, is political turmoil. With the country hosting the presidential elections last year, I believe it caused a drop in the Chinese market. However, politics itself is not a direct cause of the drop in the numbers in my opinion.
When talking about this decrease, it is also important to remember that last year and a little bit of this year, we saw unfortunate incidents occurring to several tourists. In my opinion, this too influenced the minds of potential travelers to Maldives as they are a very sensitive market. In addition to this, it is also possible that they could be traveling to other destinations other than Maldives.
What is the role of your agency in bringing Chinese tourists to Maldives?
We have a number of roles in bringing Chinese tourists to Maldives. One of those roles is contacting our travel agents in China and sharing information regarding the products in the country.
Another would be giving out useful information to potential travelers. Even though so many Chinese people have Maldives as a dream destination, many do not know basic things about it. Due to this, when we attend fairs in China, we make it one of our priorities that they understand Maldives even more so as to tempt them into visiting the country. I am happy to say that our attention-to-detail has proved to have very fruitful outcomes.
What are the key trends you see in the future of the Chinese market?
Raffles Maldives Meradhoo
As someone who has witnessed the arrival of several Chinese tourists to Maldives, I can say that their main reason for the arrival is for their honeymoon. After arriving in Maldives, these honeymooners tend to have photoshoots in order to capture the beauty of the country. It is a very common trait to see within all types of Chinese travelers as they have a tendency to save and capture memories within themselves.
As Maldives is surrounded by the ocean and has a fair share of dive experts, several Chinese tourists visit Maldives is to obtain PADI certificates in diving. Due to that, we contact guesthouses and other tourism facilities such as diving schools in order to make it easier for our clients to obtain the certificates.
Even though it may not be too common, we also see them come to stay at Safaris. It is possible that this aspect of the tourism market may grow in the future, however, I believe that the upmarket trend of the country will stay the same even in the future. Chinese tourists will visit Maldives and stay at the luxury resorts and experience the maximum peak of relaxation.
In the future, I believe that Chinese tourists will stay an average of 7 nights or even longer after the currently ongoing development of the international airport. The reason why I am saying this is because China market is the largest market in the industry and that there are many different tourists from different classes who are interested in having long-stay holidays in Maldives. So I believe this trend will retain in the future.
Are there any behavioral changes being brought in the Chinese market due to the increase in the number of millennial travelers?
Chinese tourists in a Maldives resort
In my opinion, millennial travelers specifically enjoy long-stay holidays in Maldives. There has been many instances where they have made bookings in luxury island resorts for a duration of 7 nights. With this, I believe it is a good impact on the Maldives tourism industry. We have come across luxurious spenders within our long-stay clients. They have no issue with spending as much as they like, which leads to an increase in profit from the industry, directly impacting the economy.
What are the usual types of travelers you deal with in the Chinese market?
As I mentioned in a previous answer, one of the most significant types of travelers we get is honeymooners. They take up a good percentage of the total number of travelers arriving in Maldives from China.
Photo: Ibrahim Asad’s Photography
Apart from honeymooners, we then notice group travelers are very common. We have brought 300 to 400 pax groups in a series of trips to the country. This is usually due to the fact that large-scale Chinese employers believe in giving their employees a free trip as an annual treat to a country of their choice. For instance, I recently received a call from my agent saying he has gotten a 50,000 pax deal out of which he plans to send 1000 pax to Maldives throughout the year 2019.
What do you have to say about MICE tourism in the Chinese market? Have you received any requests for a meeting or such?
Yes, we have. We have hosted a number of meetings in resorts for groups of people from China. However, when in comparison with the other reasons, MICE travel is not the most prominent reason for traveling when it comes to the Chinese market.
What are three things you do to increase the number of Chinese arrivals?
In my opinion, I believe that the work done to promote Maldives is still not enough and we need to put in more effort to market the destination in markets such as China. For instance, currently, we only take part in 2 to 3 tourism fairs in China. If we increased the number of fairs, we would be able to reach a greater audience and bring more tourists to Maldives.
Maldives at COTTM, Photo: MMPRC
Other than increasing the number of fairs we take part in, we also need to have cheaper options to travel to Maldives. Sometimes we forget that there are different classes of travelers and so, we should be more accommodating to low-budget or middle-class travelers. When looking at the numbers, middle-class travelers are greater in percentage in comparison with high-budget travelers. If we are able to operate a budget airline and bring about a low market, this would also bring about a spike in the total number of tourists.
In addition to that, it is very important to remember that most Chinese arrivals are not familiar with the English language and hence, creating a barrier between the visitor and the locals. In order to prevent any possible tragedies created by the language barrier, we need to employ Chinese guides or those who can speak Chinese. These guides will be able to relay the required information well as they would understand their mother-tongue. This could prevent any unfortunate incidents from occurring and increase the number of Chinese arrivals to Maldives.