Maldives beckons India’s glamour and affluent set once more

Ending a two-month ban on travelers from South Asian nations following the surge in coronavirus infection in the region, Maldives is to open its borders to these countries from July 15

Sirshendu Panth Jul 02, 2021

Ending a two-month ban on travelers from South Asian nations following the surge in coronavirus infection in the region, Maldives is to open its borders to these countries from July 15. The Maldives government announced its decision only three days back, but the Indian travel agents have already gone public with a plethora of attractive offers targeted at the country’s celebrities and the affluent class, for whom the Indian Ocean atoll has become a neighborhood dream destination.  

In mid-May, the Maldives government closed its doors to the travelers from other countries in South Asia, which was in the grip of a vicious Covid wave. However, with the virus wave now seemingly on the wane in India – a top source tourist market for the archipelago known for its exquisite white sandy beaches, turquoise blue sea, beautiful reefs – the government on June 29 announced it would restart issuing of on-arrival tourist visa starting July 15 to tourists from the region.

The only condition is “Tourists need a negative #PCR result to enter the Maldives,” the country’s tourism ministry tweeted.

Within hours, Indian tour operators began enticing tourists from India promising special rates of luxurious resorts and discounted hotel packages for, what they christened, “trip to adventure” in a bid to tap those interested in the wonderful recreational pursuits like scuba diving, snorkeling, and surfing one can find in the Maldives.

Indian travel agents have begun promotionals announcing “buy one get one free” – in other words, one free booking for every paid one – as also Covid insurance covers, 24/7 doctor on call,  Covid negative or vaccinated drivers, hotel staff and fellow travelers, besides offers of free re-scheduling and cancellations.

Maldives has a lucrative tourism industry – focusing on high-end travelers – that contributes, directly and indirectly, nearly two-thirds of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), and the bulk of foreign reserves.

In 2019,  the country of just over 500,000 people,  attracted a record 1.7 million tourists. But the Covid pandemic changed all that, with the nation so far hit by four waves of the disease, forcing the authorities to shut tourism activities for months in 2020, as its annual GDP contracted by 32 percent.

But 2021 has seen much better numbers. The tourist arrivals crossed the half a million mark in the first six months of the current year despite the challenges posed by the renewed Covid wave across the region. From  January 1 to 25 June, the country welcomed 500,406 tourists, data released by the Ministry of Tourism shows.

The figure is, however, almost 40 percent less in comparison to the same period in 2019 when it recorded 843,062 arrivals. But In comparison to 2020, it has grown by almost 30 percent.

The drop in tourist arrivals compared to 2019 could be because of the lesser number of travelers from India which was battered by the second wave of Covid 19 this year.

However, Bollywood celebrities continued to escape to the Maldives in large numbers, even as Covid began taking its deadly toll on the country. Actors like Shraddha Kapoor, Janhvi Kapoor, Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani were among those seen holidaying in the luxurious Maldives resorts and giving sneak peeks into their aquatic adventures. . Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt flew there immediately after recuperating from Covid-19. That was till the ban in mid-May when the South Asian region got badly hit and all travel stopped.  

With the picturesque archipelago once again beckoning, India’s entertainment bigwigs and the affluent must be packing their bags for a fresh getaway into its idyllic surroundings.

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