The year 2019 was a good year for Maldives tourism. Maldives received its target of 1.5 million tourist arrivals in 2019 well ahead in November with the total year-end arrivals surpassing 1.7 million. The robust growth has come driven by the Indian market that jumped several places in source market ranking to second position, contributing almost 10 per cent in visitor share, from under 6 per cent the previous year.
Speaking on the sidelines of the recently concluded SATTE 2020, Fathimath Raheel, Director – Procurement, Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation (MMPRC), informed, “We have reached 1.7 million visitors at the end of 2019 which is a great achievement. The other good news is that India has taken the second position in visitor numbers. Last year, we received over 166,000 Indian travelers, reflecting a growth of almost 90 per cent over 2018.” Maldives witnessed 8 per cent growth from India in 2018.
“India is very important source market. India is very close to the Maldives in terms of connectivity. We had issue in the past with regard to connectivity but today we have many budget airlines now flying and we have good connection through SriLankan Airlines also. We have seen a lot of growth due to enhanced connectivity,” Raheel said. Maldives has particularly found favours from segments like honeymooners, family as well as millennial. Honeymooners are visiting the island nation in much larger numbers now.
Social and digital media platforms will be key to Maldives tourism outreach in the Indian market in 2020 as well as elsewhere. “We have done lot of destination marketing and promotion and now we are planning to do more. For 2020, we are trying to lay more focus on social and digital media promotion. People have become so dependent on technology and almost everyone has mobile phone. Besides, we are planning joint promotions with the tour operators as well,” Raheel said,
Maldives is now eyeing the 2 million visitor target for 2020. “We are hoping to mark 2 million arrivals in 2020 and we hope that India will grow more. We are talking to the airlines to increase air connectivity from other major Indian cities as well and not only from Delhi and Mumbai,” she said. China and India are now Maldives top two tourism source markets. Other key source markets are Germany, Italy, the UK, France, Russia, Japan, among others.
Addressing the perception about Maldives being an expensive destination, Raheel said, “There is this perception that Maldives is an expensive destination, but we want to highlight the fact that Maldives is affordable to everyone. There is something for everyone, from luxury resorts and villas to affordable accommodation in our guest houses.”
Maldives is growing its guesthouses offerings at islands inhabited by the locals. These well-equipped guesthouses are targeted at providing more affordable accommodation to tourists and options to stay amidst the Maldivians. “You can do everything that you do staying at a resort, but at a more affordable price points,” she points.
Maldives is continuing to add new products and attraction in order to cater to the increasing arrivals. Several international brands like Hard Rock Café, Saii Lagoon Maldives, part of Crossroads Maldives integrated resort project with shopping, hotels and resorts etc., have opened doors in recent times and are further expanding their offerings to international tourists.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.