Maldives' borders will be opened on July 15, AVAS has learnt.
The tourism dependent island nation's borders were closed to tourists in March as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has previously announced plans to re-open the borders in July.
AVAS has learnt that the Tourism Ministry has completed all work necessary to re-open the borders and forwarded it to the President's Office. The required guidelines have been formulated and finalized.
A press conference has been scheduled for this evening by the President's Office and it is believed the president will address the nation during the briefing, and will announce the border reopening date.
The Tourism Ministry first said the borders will be reopened on July 1. However, the date was later revised, and there were rumors that the country will open its borders on July 10. However, reliable sources have revealed that the date has been finalized for July 15.
While the airport will once again be operational and provide services to foreigners, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) is prepared and on stand-by to provide services, the company said on Monday.
Speaking at the Parliament's SOE committee, MACL's Managing Director Moosa Solih said 10 international flights have expressed interest and requested for allocations to land at the airport. Moosa Solih said there is a chance that the number will increase in the coming days, adding that several flights have not cancelled their pre-COVID-19 slots. Therefore, it is likely that the number of operational domestic flights will increase to 20, said the MD.
Moosa Solih said although the airport could previously cater to upto 1000 international arrivals simultaneously, it can now accommodate up to 577 international arrivals with social distancing measures in place. While the airport had the capacity to handle up to 1200 international departures , the figure has now been revised to 750, said Moosa Solih.
Although the airport will be re-opened on July 15, it is believed that scheduled flights will begin arriving after August 1.
The government said 980,000 tourists are expected to visit the archipelago this year if tourism resumes in July, but industry experts estimate the figure will be between 600,000 and 700,000. The figures are based on tourism picking up in November, and around 200,000 tourists arriving during the remainder of the year.
The Finance Ministry has warned that the country will receive less than half of its expected revenue, and the decline in tourist arrivals will decrease tourism industry revenue by 50 percent. Therefore, instead of the MVR 30 billion revenue which was previously anticipated, the new figure would be approximately MVR 15 billion, said the ministry.