Just as international travel and tourism industry was taking sigh of relief, expecting the worst is over; headlines of various international news agencies reported on the discovery of an entirely new Covid-19 variant.
Since its initial discovery by South African scientists, news of positive cases found in various countries have been flooding in.
In light of the new and seemingly more problematic variant of the Covid-19 virus, now dubbed the 'Omicron', countries such as the UK, US, Japan and Israel have announced new travel restrictions that would considerably limit both inbound and outbound travelers from these destinations.
Meanwhile, the first case confirmed Omicron variant was reported from US just last week – on Wednesday that resulted in the country's government imposing sudden and strict restrictions leaving many surprised and some even stranded since several countries have barred flights temporarily to locations where the Omicron variant has been detected.
Adding to the woes even further is the confirmation by UK that they have once again pushed up PCR test requirements for international arrivals from the US, while US itself has started to bar arrivals from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The new variant is already derailing several international business travel prospects, which has been a lagging tourism segment since the Covid-19 started spreading globally in 2020. Many of the scheduled international travel and tourism events in regions where cases of the Omicron variant have been reported, are currently advised against from traveling – thus inducing last minute booking cancellations.
While the international travel industry is once again looking at bleaker prospects, there will be noticeable consequences for the Maldives as well.
Both UK and US being strong source markets to the Maldives, will observe a drop in their tourist arrivals to the island nation in the coming weeks until the situation becomes stable. There is little to no doubt that countries with travel restrictions both in an out will suffer the plight and subsequently result in affecting other countries where travelers from the affected regions have been keen on traveling.
The island nation may expect a comparative month-on-month decline in the tourist arrivals as well as a noticeable drop in the daily arrival average since the European peninsula is currently battling possible new waves of the Omicron variant. Moreover, Europe is also the largest tourism segment to the Maldives in regional terms, thus a steep decline in arrivals to the island nation is becoming more inevitable.
While the Omicron variant's severity may not fully damage the progress made by the Maldivian tourism industry in its recovery, it has once again become a cautionary tale.