Tourism Indicators: The Maldivian Tourism Industry – 2015 in Review
The year 2015 was an impressive year for the global tourism industry with a 4.4% growth in international tourist arrivals recording a total of 1,184 million according to UNWTO World Tourism Barometer released in January 2016. The international tourism demand has been booming faster for the past few years with higher than expected arrival growth rates despite the various challenges faced.
The inbound international tourist arrival in the Maldives reached 1,234,248 in 2015 with an arrival growth rate of 2.4% compared to the year 2014. The industry performance is a bit modest for Maldives in 2015 as the international tourist arrival growth rate is much lower than the growth rates achieved during the past couple of years as well as the global tourist arrival growth rate in 2015. Though the industry did not show an impressive growth rate like the year before, it maintained a positive overall growth rate, despite experiencing negative arrival growth rates in some of the months of 2015. Moreover, the sector recorded a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.42% during the last five years, which is much higher than the global average.
Moving to the rest of the indicators, bed nights and occupancy rate showed a negative growth rate throughout the year compared to the same period in 2014. Also, the average duration of stay continues to decrease as majority of the tourists visiting prefers shorter vacations.Tourism Source markets
Looking into the regional tourism source markets, Asia and the Pacific maintained its position as the market leader for the Maldives since the number of inbound international tourists from the region surpassed the arrival numbers from Europe since the year 2014. However, Europe is still the global market leader though Asia and the Pacific region is the fastest growing market with a significant chunk of the pie.
In terms of individual markets China continues to be the top tourism source market for Maldives sharing 29.1% of the market with sustained growth rates. Although, the arrival growth from China for 2015 is 1.1% lesser than the figure in 2014. Other top markets like Germany, United Kingdom, and Italy showed positive growth rates in 2015 as the economic outlook of the Euro Zone starts to improve, while growth from Russia, France and Korea was negative. Maldives also experienced significant growth from Saudi Arabia, United States and Australia.
Ministry of Tourism and Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) together with industry operators from private sector undertook many initiatives to promote the destination in 2015. Some of the important exhibitions participated by the Maldives include the Fitur, held in Madrid, Spain, the FESPO Fair held in Zurich, Switzerland in January, the East Mediterranean International Tourism and Travel Fair (EMITT) held in Istanbul, the Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), the Arabian Travel Market held at Dubai in May, the JATA Tourism EXPO Japan held in September, the TTG Incontri held in Italy, The Marine Dive Fair held in Tokyo, Japan, the Azerbaijan International Tourism Fair (AITF), and the World Travel Market (WTM) held at London in November 2015. Some other promotional activities include the road shows held in various cities of India during the year, and a photo exhibition during March and April at the CoffeeMania- a popular specialty coffee chain in Russia.
Despite the lower than expected tourist arrivals, in terms of popularity of the destination, Maldives is still on top of the list. Maldives achieved a big win with a total of 20 awards on various categories in the 22nd World Travel Awards Grand Final Ceremony held in Morocco on 12th December 2015, which included the title of the World’s Leading Beach Destination. Other renowned awards include the winning of 2nd place on the DIVER magazine destination of the year award and the third best exhibitor award in ITB, 2015. Also, several resorts and hotels in the Maldives won various distinguished awards in 2015.
The Tourism Supply side
Tourist accommodation facilities in the Maldives comes in four types, tourist resorts, city hotels, guest houses and safari vessels. At the end of 2015, a total of 302 properties were operational with 28,276 beds, and almost 85% of the capacity came from tourist resorts. And, though with a lower percentage of bed capacity currently, safari vessels seem to be a growing type of tourist accommodation with an increment of 43.4% of beds from the number in 2014 for this type of accommodation.
Air connectivity is one of the key factors in enhancing the international tourism performance in the Maldives. The year 2015 also brought several improvements in the aviation sector with the opening of a new domestic airport- Ifuru in Raa Atoll in May 2015, and the planned mega expansion project for Ibrahim Nasir International Airport including a runway, taxiway and new passenger terminal building, along with several support facilities to increase passenger handling capacity and provide international standard services to passengers. Also, Maldives signed an agreement with China on the development of the new runway in December.
Many new airlines started its operations in the Maldives during 2015 providing more connectivity and flexibility for international tourists visiting the Maldives. SilkAir- the regional wing of Singapore Airlines started four weekly scheduled flights to Maldives from 25th October on Singapore-Male’ route. The Beijing Capital Airlines- a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines started three weekly scheduled flights from Beijing to Male on 27th October. Turkish Airlines- the national flag carrier of Turkey started 5 days per week scheduled flights from Istanbul Atatürk International Airport to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport from 24th November 2015. Also, Air Asia- the low cost carrier from Malaysia resumed its flights to Maldives during 2015 after stopping the service for about a year.
Moreover, in February Maldivian added new routes with flights from Xian to Nanjing to Maldives focusing on the increased influx of Chinese tourists and started new direct flights from Bangkok to Male’.
Economic impact in 2015
As per the Monthly Economic Review published by Maldives Monetary Authority in February 2016, the GDP growth for 2015 is expected to be lower by 1.7% against the 6.5% growth rate achieved in 2014. Tourism being the largest contributor to GDP, this slowdown in GDP growth is mainly due to the lower than expected growth rates in tourist arrivals. The inflation rate stood at 1.2% at the end of December 2015.