Maldives' tourism industry is expected to see a negative growth of 29.5 percent if the number of tourist arrivals continues to dwindle amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) said on Tuesday.
In a press release, MATATO noted that several bookings were cancelled over the past 48 hours, while new bookings have seen a sharp drop as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the current rate, the industry is expected to lose a daily average of 1,376 bookings, averaging a monthly loss of 41,289 tourist arrivals.
While acknowledging government-led efforts to manage the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, MATATO stated that the crisis "could lead to an economic recession if it isn't handled properly", urging the administration to take stronger measures to mitigate the potential loss to the local economy.
Maldives recorded over 1.6 million tourist arrivals in 2019. While the Chinese market accounted for 16.7 percent of all arrivals last year, the Italian market made up eight percent of tourists.
In a bid to curb the potential spread of the virus, Maldives has banned entry from China and Italy, in addition to Iran, Bangladesh and two regions of South Korea, as well as all cruise liners docking in the country.
United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that global tourism will experience a negative growth of up to three percent, translating into an annual loss of USD 30 to 50 billion in international tourism receipts.
Tourism contributes to over two-thirds of the Maldives' Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with livelihoods of thousands of households dependent on industry generated wages.
Eight foreign nationals have tested positive for the coronavirus in Maldives, while several other individuals that were in close contact with confirmed or suspected cases, or exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, have been placed in quarantine or isolation.
There are now three resorts in the country under quarantine: Kuredu Island Resort, Sandies Bathala Resort and Kuramathi Island Resort.