700,000 tourists likely to visit Maldives in 2021, says minister

The Finance Minister on Wednesday said 700,000 tourists are expected to visit the Maldives next year.

The number of tourists visiting the Maldives declined drastically due to border closures and travel restrictions resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Maldives closed its border to tourists on March 27 as a precautionary measure against the pandemic, and reopened the borders after three months on July 15.

Speaking at the Parliament on Wednesday, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer said the government made models for different scenarios that are likely to occur due to the pandemic. Although the government previously expected 800,000 tourists to visit the country by the end of the year, the figure has been revised to 450,000 after the number of arrivals remained disappointingly low compared to pre-COVID-19 figures, said the minister.

Only 20,000 tourists have visited the Maldives since it reopened its borders to tourists, and the total number of tourists that visited the country thus far this year is at 404,854. Minister Ameer said while a large number of countries continue to struggle with the pandemic, the government does not expect tourism to significantly pick up pace during the upcoming year, and estimated that 700,000 tourists will visit the Maldives in 2021 in the best case scenario. However, it is possible that the situation may improve, said the minister.

The minister added that although the number of tourist arrivals is low, the duration of stay has increased. While a tourist spends five or six nights in the Maldives on average, the duration has increased to 14 nights during the current situation, said Ameer. This could possibly increase the amount spent by tourists during their stay, somewhat balancing the loss suffered due to the less number of arrivals.

The Finance Minister said the biggest challenge for tourists interested in visiting Maldives is the mandatory 14-day quarantine period imposed by some countries upon their return from abroad. The Tourism Ministry is taking the lead on introducing a special insurance package to address the issue, said the minister.

Minister Ameer further revealed that the budget for 2021 will include additional funds for Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) in order to boost tourism marketing activities. The government is also paying extra attention to enhancing the fishing and agriculture industries to lessen the country’s dependency on the tourism sector, he added.