Maldives minister hails 'united effort' for tourism boost

Maldives tourism minister Moosa Zameer on Wednesday attributed the increase tourist arrivals to a huge united effort by the entire industry last year.

The expected fallout on Maldives tourism by the declaration of the state of emergency failed to materialize as the luxury tropical island destination recorded an 18.5 percent increase in tourist arrivals last month.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdulla Gayoom on February 5 had declared state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

The tourism industry had been hit with declining occupancy during the state of emergency.

In addition to China, several countries including India, US, Europe, UK had issued varying degrees of travel advisories to their citizens following the turmoil in the luxury tropical island destination.

However, similar to the upward trend in February, statistics show that a total 133,466 tourists had visited the Maldives last month which is an 18.5 percent increase from the same period last year.

The tourism minister admitted to AVAS that the arrivals boost had been aided by the various global holiday seasons in the past few months.

"We put in a huge effort at the back of end of last year. That's the reason for this success. Though it was below what we expected, state revenue had also increased," Zameer explained.

Zameer hailed the united effort by the entire tourism industry for the continued success but expressed hope that the year would see Maldives surpass expectations.

"We have a lot of fairs coming up. A lot of airlines are also working with us. In addition we're also trying to portray a positive image [about Maldives]. If we see a negative article on a foreign newspaper we try to mitigate it. We're seeing the result of such efforts," he added.

Despite the stark travel advisories during the period, Europe continued to dominate the arrivals and had registered a 33 percent increase from last year.

The only decline was from the Asia Pacific region while the slowdown in Chinese tourists also continued with 72,539 arrivals compared to the marginally higher 73,135 last year.