Tourism Minister Dr. Abdulla Mausoom has said current discussions and efforts indicate that Chinese tourists are expected to visit the Maldives in January next year at the earliest.
Replying to a question posed by AVAS, the minister said it was difficult to say for sure when Chinese tourists would arrive in the Maldives. However, it is expected that Chinese tourists will start traveling for the Chinese New Year.
"Chinese New Year coincides with the end of January. Therefore, it is expected that Chinese tourists will come to the Maldives when flights start then," he said.
Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Lixin, said last month that Chinese tourists would start visiting the Maldives in October. However, Minister Maumoon even then said there was little hope that Chinese tourists would arrive in the Maldives on the date mentioned by the ambassador.
Minister Maumoon said the resumption of flights between China and the Maldives would bring about a significant change to the tourism sector. China was the top tourist market for the Maldives before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our hope is also to welcome Chinese tourists as soon as possible. However, opening flights is a decision of the Chinese government," the minister said.
Of the 1.7 million tourists who visited the Maldives in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 17 percent were from China. While China is a top source market for tourism, China and Maldives share close diplomatic relations. This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and 50 years since tourism began in the Maldives.