What does the future hold for tourism in the Maldives?

A look at the Maldives' major markets, current and past, and what the future may hold for tourism.

Source - livingnormads.com

Source - livingnormads.com

The continual bombardment of major global events in the past few years has launched ripple effects all over the globe, bringing about revolutions in the way the world operates and the mentalities of its people. A figurative ambiguous haze has been cast over the path ahead for the entire world. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a previously routine and systematic global society has been thrown into chaos. The effects were severely evident in the Maldives, where the country’s most prominent livelihoods were entirely dependent on inbound travelers from other countries. 

China, the reported origin of the pandemic, was the former highest source market for tourists to the Maldives for years during the ongoing season. However, they are now one of the smallest source markets due to travel restrictions for health and safety reasons.

Moreover, Russia is currently engaged in an armed dispute with neighboring country Ukraine and this has also led to many limitations, travel and otherwise, for both involved parties and many others as well. Both Russia and Ukraine have been in the top 10 source markets of 2022 until the conflict began, which resulted in a virtual halt to incoming tourists from those regions to the Maldives.

Source - Velana International Airport

Even if the conflict concludes in the near future, it would take a long time for the affected areas and people to recover. Thus, tourists from these countries may not be able to travel to Maldives in such vast numbers as they did prior to the conflict in the near future.

The loss of these major contributors has left a substantial gap in the Maldivian tourism market, and alternative source markets will be filling these vacancies soon. The state-run Maldives Media and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) is taking steps to reinforce other existing markets and establish new ones by collaborating with numerous tour operators. They are also making impressions in other countries through road shows, travel expos, and other various promotional events. Maldives has been represented in a “Maldives roadshow” and Expo 2020 held this month in Dubai targeting the Middle East region, OTM in Mumbai, targeting India and Brussels Holiday Fair in Belgium for the European region in March 2022 alone.

As evident from past statistics, India has consistently been a major contributor at during this season for many years prior. In addition to promotion and events, India and Maldives have also reinforced relations when the Indian Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S. Jaishankar visited Maldives this month and together with the Maldivian Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid, commenced multiple cooperation projects spanning many industries including education, infrastructure development and tourism.

However, India is heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and sudden surges in COVID cases and changes in restrictions make it difficult to determine whether India would be the next biggest source market for Maldives.

Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries have been gradually rising in source market statistics recently and these markets have the potential to be top contributors as well. Travel fairs and road shows are still being held to further promote the Maldives as a holiday destination to Middle Eastern tourists, such as the Meeting Arabia and Luxury Travel Congress currently ongoing in Dubai, as well as the Arabian Travel Market and Riyadh Travel Fair to be held in May 2022.

Europe is also regaining its foothold in the Maldivian tourism market since the pandemic, and promotion of Maldives as a “safe haven” at the BIT Milan this April, and IMEX in Germany at the end of May is likely to create higher demand for Maldives as a tourist destination for European tourists as well.

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