Maldives on Tuesday reported a slight decline in tourist arrivals, as the destination recovers from a wave of domestic political turmoil.
Maldives attracted a wave of bad publicity following the recent declaration of a state of emergency, which ended in March. However, the political turmoil was strictly restricted to the capital city, away from the resorts and local islands where holidaymakers stay in.
Official figures for the month of April released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 119,713 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 0.1 percent decrease over the 119,774 tourists in April 2017.
Europe, the largest regional source market, posted an overall growth of 2.2 percent over April 2017, as arrivals increased to 62,871 from 61,542.
The UK, which is the single biggest European source market, made a gain of 15.4 percent, while the French market also recorded an increase of 19.5 percent. However, several major European markets such as Germany (down 18.8 percent), Italy (down 2.5 percent) and Spain (down 17.1 percent) posted declines.
Russian travellers once again showed their appetite for the Maldives, as arrival numbers jumped 19.1 percent in April to reach 6,433 from 5,400 in April 2017. This strong performance last month translated into an impressive growth of 29.6 percent in arrivals from Russia for the first four months of the year.
Meanwhile, arrivals from Asia, the second largest regional source market, decreased 4.6 percent in April.
Arrivals from China declined by 28 percent to reach 15,093 compared to the 20,975 in April 2017. This decline, which came after a 27.5 percent decline in March and another 15.8 percent in January, offset the rare gain in arrival numbers from China and led to a 6.9 percent decline in arrivals for the January-April period from the Maldives’ single biggest source market.
However, major contributors to Maldives tourism from South East Asia continued to post strong gains in April as well, with arrivals from countries such as Malaysia and Thailand increasing by 9.4 percent and 51.4 percent respectively. Arrivals from Singapore, however, declined by 5.5 percent.
Arrivals from South Asia, which has become one of the fastest growing source markets, posted a gain of 5.3 percent in April after two months of negative growth. This is largely due to a 4.2 percent increase in tourists from India, which is the most important market in the region, and another 23.8 percent growth in arrivals from Sri Lanka.
Despite the mixed performance in established markets, relatively new markets continued their upward growth trajectory last month as well, as arrivals from the Americas were up 9.8 percent and Oceania up 54.4 percent.
Arrivals from the US, which last year secured a place amongst the top 10 contributors to the Maldives tourism industry, increased by 2.5 percent to reach 3,266 last month compared to the 3,187 in April 2017, while the number of visitors from Australia also increased by 60.3 percent. However, South Africa, which has been on the recovery, posted a decline of 19.2 percent — the first major decline in almost a year.
Middle East, which has proven to be a volatile market, recorded an 8.7 percent growth in April after major declines for the past two months. This is largely due to increases in arrivals from Saudi Arabia (up 2.5 percent), United Arab Emirates (up 5.4 percent), Kuwait (up 24.4 percent) and Qatar (up 89 percent). Egypt, however, posted a decline of 6.9 percent.
According to the April statistics, total arrivals for the first four months of the year increased by 12.7 percent to reach 539,816 compared to the 478,827 in the same period of last year.
Over the past five years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers. Several international brands have entered into the market, increasing the number of resorts to 120. That number is set to increase as the government has announced the opening of some 20 new resorts over the next two years.
Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 450 guesthouses in operation today.
The government has recently announced new steps to maintain a structured growth in tourism, including a slowdown in leasing islands for resort development and increased marketing efforts in key markets such as China and the Middle East in order to reach an ambitious target of a record 1.5 million tourist arrivals this year.
Photo: Kurumba Maldives