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Only 9,329 tourist arrivals after Maldives reopened borders

Fathmath Shaahunaz
03 September 2020, MVT 14:16
Maldives welcomes its first tourists after the country reopened borders o July 15, 2020. FILE PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
03 September 2020, MVT 14:16

Maldives Immigration revealed on Wednesday that only 9,329 tourist arrivals were recorded after Maldives reopened its borders.

Per Immigration's statistics, Maldives received only 7,628 visitors during the month of August, while tourist arrivals stood at 1,701 from July 15 to July 31 after the country opened its doors for tourism.

The average amount of arrivals increased from 100 daily in July to 218 in August. Meanwhile, July recorded a maximum amount of 218 within a single day, a figure that increased to 373 last month.

The highest number of visitors in August hailed from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 1,627 arrivals. The UAE was the first country to resume passenger flights to Maldives, with its national carrier Emirates landing at Velana International Airport (VIA) on July 15, right after borders reopened.

The second highest tourist arrivals was from the United Kingdom (UK) with 715 visitors, followed by 674 from the United States (US).

The UK is one of the biggest tourism markets for Maldives. Experts have attributed the low numbers of tourists to Maldives' exclusion from the list of countries exempted from the UK's Global Travel Advisory.

However, Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) recently revealed that it was in talks with relevant UK authorities to ease travel restrictions and encourage more British citizens to visit.

The remaining countries on Immigration's list of Top 10 Arrivals by Nationality include Spain, Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine, Egypt and Brazil.

As with numerous countries around the world, in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Maldives closed its air and sea borders to tourist arrivals on March 27, halting the issuance of on-arrival visas until July 15.

Despite the lifting of restrictions, Maldives has noted a significant reduction in tourist arrivals compared to pre-COVID figures, with arrivals for July 2020 representing only 1.3 percent of those recorded in 2019.

However, Minister of Tourism Dr Abdulla Mausoom has stated that the government is expecting an additional 100,000 tourist arrivals before year end.

In the best case scenario, the minister speculated that Maldives may see 500,000 tourist arrivals this year. This would be a higher number than the amount of tourists that visited Maldives in 2005, following the damages sustained in the tsunami that swept through the island nation in December, 2004.

Although Maldives reopened borders with extremely lenient guidelines, the government recently announced that, in a move to strengthen safety measures, tourists will be mandated to present a negative PCR certificate upon arrival from September 10 onwards.

Dr Mausoom stated that in addition to ensuring the safety of tourists and hospitality industry staff, this development would also help to increase tourist arrivals.

At present, tourists are permitted to enter the country without observing quarantine or presenting negative PCR certificates. They are only tested for the virus before departure from Maldives.

The restrictions on international travel left Maldives' heavily tourism reliant economy in an extremely vulnerable state. In mid-April, the World Bank projected that Maldives would be the worst-hit economy in the South Asian region due to the pandemic.

Overall, Maldives estimates a shortfall of approximately USD 450 million (MVR 6.9 billion) in foreign currency and a state deficit of MVR 13 billion in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the tourism industry.

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