India Reigns as Top Source Market, Maldives Hits One Million Arrivals
With Additional Writing by Shahudha Mohamed and Anshika Singhal
2022 marks 50 years of tourism for the Maldives, the idyllic Indian Ocean tourist destination, often hailed as ‘paradise on earth’. Each year, the isles welcome throngs of visitors from all over the globe, seeking all things ranging from luxurious getaways to action-packed adventures.
With tourism contributing to over 70 percent of the country’s GDP, tourist arrival numbers have always been an important indicator for determining the industry’s success and pinpointing improvements required to increase the destination’s appeal. So, it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic left quite a huge impact on the small island nation, as international airports shut down and flights remained grounded for months.
However, these dire circumstances inspired a different perspective: the Maldives, with its secluded island resorts surrounded by sea, could offer isolated, safe harbours for travelers yearning for an escape from the monotonous lethargy of the pandemic. With this in mind, the country was amongst the first destinations to reopen its doors for tourists, following strict guidelines to mitigate health risks. Travellers started trickling in, slowly at first, and then picking up pace – bringing with them a renewed hope for the hotel industry.
India, the Maldives’ closest neighbour and second most populous country in the world, lies approximately 2000 kilometers away from the island nation. It requires only a short, relaxing flight to land at Velana International Airport (VIA), from which tourists can easily catch a speedboat or seaplane to their desired island or resort. The short travel distance and affordable flights put the Maldives at the top of weekend getaways for Indian visitors. Bollywood celebrities flocking to the islands, and documenting their picturesque stays on social media, have further cemented its reputation as the ideal tourist destination.
The isles also offer a wide variety of stays with 164 resorts for those looking for luxury and rejuvenation, and 830 guesthouses in local islands for those who prefer a more immersive experience into the Maldivian culture and lifestyle. Adventurers and explorers can go on a cruise on one of the 150 safaris and liveaboards operating in the country. Either way, one thing is guaranteed: every visitor can enjoy the Maldives’ unmatched beauty – tropical palms breaking through lush greenery, gentle waves beaching onto immaculate shores, coral reefs pulsating to the rhythm of the ocean.
As the post-pandemic tourist arrival numbers continue to surge exponentially, India has emerged as one of the largest tourist source markets for the Maldives. Currently ranking at the top with 14.4 percent of the market share, over 137,000 Indians visited the Maldivian isles as of August 3, 2022. This number was even higher in 2021, with India consisting 22 percent of the market share with 286,434 arrivals.
India’s market share in Maldivian tourism started showing a notable increase over the last half-decade, climbing from 66,955 arrivals in 2016 to 166,030 in 2019. The numbers saw a steep growth (by 83.5 percent) in the year 2019 compared to the previous years. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 tremors took a toll, and Indian arrivals fell by 62 percent. Still, the two countries managed to establish a travel bubble, and Indians contributed the largest number of international tourist arrivals to the Maldives even during the pandemic. The decrease in numbers in 2020 were also eventually recovered in 2021 and 2022.
Keeping in mind the proximity, growing economies, connectivity, the strategic location of the Maldives and the relations between India and the Maldives, both countries have a bright future together.
Five-Star Vacations for Everyone
The Maldives earned the title of ‘World’s Leading Destination’ at the 2021 World Travel Awards, recognised as the hallmark of industry excellence – a shining testimony of the trust placed in the Maldivian hospitality by the travelers. Luxury resorts in the isles are the embodiment of high-end hospitality, providing every service a guest might require. Out of all the categories of tourist facilities, resorts also generate the largest amount of revenue, pulling in most of the foreign currency circulated in the country.
In these resorts, guests can have an otherworldly vacation, enjoying a floating breakfast in the pool, lounging in overwater villas, tasting gastronomic dishes prepared by skilled chefs, and forgetting all of life’s worries with relaxing spa experiences. For travelers yearning for a tropical escape, luxury resorts are the epitome of vacation goals.
So, it is no wonder that the Maldives has been an abode for famous, Bollywood celebrities. In the past, Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna were spotted in one of Soneva’s properties, celebrating the latter’s birthday. Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan celebrated their daughter Aaradhya’s birthday at Amilla Maldives Resort & Residences — a private island paradise located in Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Love birds like Malaika Arora and Arjun Kapoor, as well as Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, created social media buzz with pictures from their vacations. Popular celebs like Katarina Kaif, Tiger Shroff, and Alia Bhatt have also graced the island’s shores, enjoying their time at Soneva Fushi, InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort, and Cheval Blanc Randheli respectively.
This is a strong testament to the world-class beauty and hospitality of the Maldives – it exceeds expectations even for those with the highest standards. The best thing, however, is that the industry does not discriminate with its services. Anyone who vacations at the isles can expect the same level of luxury and attention to detail, and an unforgettable collection of memories to take home with them.
A Healing Industry
After the influx of tourists took a nose-dive in 2020 with 555,494 arrivals, the number rose in 2021, totaling 1,321,932 visitors. It has continued rising in 2022, with 1,50,748 tourists visiting Maldives in March this year, marking the highest recorded monthly arrivals since the pandemic hit. Moreover, the average duration of a tourist’s stay has increased from 6.3 days in 2019 to 8.7 days in 2022. Judging by the uptick of visitors, current trends, and statistics, it is expected that the total number of arrivals this year will exceed the 1.7 million recorded in pre-pandemic 2019. Maldives announced that the country will welcome its one millionth visitor tomorrow (August 12)!
Regarding this achievement, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Thoyyib Mohamed said, “This is a joyous occasion, to be able to welcome one million tourists to our shores despite the hurdles we are facing. This is a combined effort of government authorities, policymakers, tourism sector employees, and stakeholders who are working hard, day and night to get here.”
He further added that “while we celebrate this milestone, it hardly means our work is over – in fact we have to strengthen our efforts, with renewed dedication to defend our position as the World’s Leading Destination and achieve our targets.”
Featured Cover Image: Velana International Airport (VIA). Featured Images in Article: The Nautilus, Ministry of Tourism, and Hindustan Times.