Opening doors with all necessary protocols for international tourists earlier in summer, Maldives continues to attract travellers from the GCC mainly due to the measures taken by the destination. Thoyyib Mohamed, Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation, shares more with TRAVTALK.
Q Could you please share the new protocols for international tourists to enter Maldives?
Well, confirmed booking, definitely with the tourist establishment approved by the ministry of tourism should be made and all tourists are required to fill an online health declaration form within 24 hours prior to departure. This can be done with the digital platform for Maldives immigration services. In addition to this, negative COVID-19 PCR test result is required, and it has to be taken 96 hours prior to departure from the first point of implication, children below one years of age are exempted from this on arrival. Tourists get a free 30-day visa and are encouraged to wear masks. In addition to practicing social distancing and hand sanitisation, however, additional requirements and permissions are needed from the ministry of tourism, for instance, if you want to go from one resort to another resort or from one resort to live in a boat or another hotel or guest house, you have to get approval beforehand.
Q Maldives opened quite early to international tourists, how has this supported the industry in terms of faster revival?
The decision to open up our island nation for international travel was one of the first steps towards kick-starting the revival of tourism industry. Being one of the first few destinations to reopen after COVID-19 lockdowns was an initiative which generated a lot of positive exposure towards the destination itself. It also proved to be a period for different properties to evaluate which methods work best in terms of budgeting for product packages. Overall, marketing did gain the upper hand in terms of understanding recovery. This decision was also backed by proper health and safety measures in accordance with the World Health Organization and the local health protection agency, which in turn made Maldives a haven to travel to and encouraged more visitors to travel to the destination without many worries.
Q How have the arrivals been from the GCC? From which countries in GCC did you receive more guests?
In 2019, 6,003 visitors from the Middle East travelled to the Maldives and in 2020, prior to the COVID-19 lockdown up until March 3, 13,436, visitors travelled to the Maldives from the Middle East, continuing to be one of the leading regions in terms of arrivals. In both cases, Saudi Arabia held the majority of the arrivals with 25,865 visitors in 2019 and 7,359 visitors in pre-lockdown period in this year. However, with the reopening of borders from July 15 till the end of October this year, the UAE has taken the lead in the Middle East with a total of 3,596 visitors in terms of post lockdown arrivals. This might also be a direct result of the UAE being one of the first countries to open for leisure travel from the GCC region.