Despite being one of the most severely affected countries due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic that stopped the world in its tracks in 2020, the Maldivian tourism industry ended the year relatively successfully, soaring past its arrival target of half a million.
According to statistics publicised by the Ministry of Tourism, a total of 552,881 arrivals were recorded by December 30, with the 169,964 tourist arrivals Maldives saw after reopening its borders on July 15.
Although the numbers started trickling in slowly, the island nation maintained an upward trend since it kickstarted the tourism industry again in July, observing major spikes in October and December.
During the last month of 2020, Maldives recorded an average of 3,127 daily arrivals - a stunning recovery from the average 100 daily arrivals recorded in July following the border reopening.
The island nation attracted the highest number of visitors from Russia, India and the United Kingdom (UK) respectively, while the United States of America (USA), Germany, France, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Spain made the list of top 10 markets.
Having bagged multiple international awards through the year, including the prestigious World's Leading Destination award at the World Travel Awards 2020, the island nation is ending the year with 4,982 operational beds in 254 guesthouses and 39 islands across 12 atolls.
The island nation reopened its borders to international passengers in July after nearly four months since the state halted issuing on-arrival visas on March 27. Guesthouses were permitted to resume operations and kick start local tourism on October 15.
On December 12, Maldives recorded the arrival of the 100,000th tourist following the removal of travel restrictions. Five days after the milestone was reached, the government welcomed the 500,000th tourist for the year 2020.
Although Maldives has noted a significant reduction in tourist arrivals compared to pre-COVID figures, there has been a gradual increase with the establishment of travel bubbles between Maldives and other countries, as well as greater connectivity in terms of flight operations.
It was suggested that a 15 percent increase in flights headed for Maldives had led to a rise of 32 percent in tourist arrivals, with unnamed sources within the industry quoted saying that, per their estimates, current figures indicate a recovery curve close to pre-COVID-19 arrival rates.
The government aims to attract a total of 1.2 million tourists to Maldives in 2021, compared to the country's record of 1.7 million in 2019. Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom had expressed his belief that the upcoming year would be a triumphant one for the island nation's tourism sector.