President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has revealed that the Maldives could open its borders as early as July.
The tourism dependent archipelago closed its borders and suspended issuing on arrival visas in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic on March 27, leading to the closure of the tourism sector. As a result, the country's economy has been hit hard, and a large number of people have lost their jobs or been placed on no-pay leaves. The inflow of foreign currency has been severely restricted.
In the president’s address to the nation on Wednesday night, he announced that if the country's situation due to COVID-19 does not decline further in the days ahead, the government intends to reopen the country’s borders and resume tourism once again.
The Tourism Ministry has developed a guideline titled 'Maldives Safe Tourism Guideline' seeking public and professional opinion on the planned strategies to re-open the tourism sector. The draft is open for comments until May 25.
According to the draft, a fee of US$ 50,000 will be charged for all charter flights and private jets arriving in the Maldives when the popular travel destination opens its doors once again. US$ 100 will be charged as fees for every 'Special Tourist Visa', and the minimum duration for the visa will be 14 days.
The draft also states that every tourist must be tested for COVID-19 before traveling to Maldives, and special precautions must be taken at their destination resorts. Service staff must wear masks and gloves at all times, and social distancing must be strictly practiced. The guidelines also state that contact tracing means must also be arranged during travel.
Additionally, all staff at tourist facilities must be trained on how to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and a certain number of tourist rooms must be kept vacant, the paper proposed.
The guideline further proposes to open the country for private jets and super yachts from June 1. According to the draft, charter flights and scheduled flights will resume on July 1, and tourists can travel to local guest houses from August 1.
While most resorts are not in operation at this time, the few that are in service are being used as quarantine facilities. The Finance Ministry has estimated that the state revenue would fall to MVR 15 billion as a result of the decline in tourist arrivals.