Tourist ban from India hit Maldives’ tourism industry revival

The Maldives had banned tourists from South Asian countries with the renewed wave of the Covid-19 was raging in the region

Jun 11, 2021
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Maldives (File)

The Maldives had banned tourists from South Asian countries with the renewed wave of the Covid-19 was raging in the region. The ban cost the archipelago--known for its pristine white beaches and luxurious island resorts--the economic recovery it had been hoping for the industry this year. 

According to the data released by the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, a total of 15,559 tourists visited the country in the first nine days of June, making an average of 1728 tourists per day.  In the month of May, when the Covid-19 wave was at its peak in the region, the average was around 2000. The daily average for the first three months of this year--January to March--was around 3200. 

Authorities banned tourists from South Asian countries mid-May, citing the risk of the spread of the Delta variant which was responsible for the disastrous Covid surge in India and Nepal.

Acknowledging the effects of the Covid-19, Abdullah Masoum, the country’s tourism minister, speaking to Raajje TV, said it had been a “low season”. However, he added that the Maldives would achieve its annual target for 2021, 1.5 million tourists.

By 9 June, almost 470,000 tourists had visited the country. In the next six and half months, it needs to garner more than a million tourists to achieve its 2021 target.
 
Prior to the ban, India was the top market for the archipelago’s tourism industry. The air-bubble agreement, which the Maldivian government had signed with India in 2020, was instrumental in the recovery of its tourism industry. 

The ban affected its growth trajectory, especially when its biggest tourist market India was off its tourist list. Furthermore, the fourth wave of the Covid-19 also hit the archipelago, crossing 1500 daily cases while the daily cases during all earlier waves rarely crossed the 500 mark. The spread of the virus in its islands prompted authorities to ban guesthouse options, a relatively cheaper option for tourists, for several countries. 

The industry is the backbone of the Maldives’ economy, contributing more than 70 percent of its revenue. 

As the situation improves in India, and the Maldives lifts the ban, the industry is expecting growth to revive. Last year also, when the lockdown was lifted, Indians, including scores of celebrities from Bollywood, flocked to the Maldives. 

Currently, Russia is at the top of its tourist market. And, a total of 30 international airlines are currently operating in the country, with numbers still growing. 

Furthermore, the archipelago since the last year has taken several innovative steps to sustain its tourism amid the pandemic and promoted itself as a safe and luxurious travel destination. In 2020, it was awarded the world’s leading travel destination. (SAM)

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