Surge in Chinese arrivals just a passing fad, cautions MATI

China has eclipsed the traditional European tourism markets of the Maldives to become the highest contributor of tourist arrivals to the country, but that gain is unlikely to last, says the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI).

Figures from the Ministry of Tourism indicate that that 15.3 percent of all arrivals this year originated from China – a staggering growth rate of 137 percent compared to the first eight months of 2009.

UK arrivals, traditionally the Maldives’ greatest market, sits at 14.9 percent followed by Italy at 12.6 percent. Average length of stay has dropped to 7.7 days, compared to the same period 8.1 last year.

Secretary General of MATI, Sim Mohamed Ibrahim, told Minivan News that Chinese tourists regarded the Maldives as a “novelty” destination, and that the growth would not last.

“The Chinese can swamp a destination in terms of numbers, but this is not the tourism the Maldives is about. Our product attracts sunseekers – Europeans,” he said.

“The Chinese who come do not come for the sun and the beach – they come because the Maldives is a novelty, a safe destination, and because of their new-found freedom to travel. Resorts are saying there are not many repeat visitors from China.”

Sim said that while it was “a good thing” that the spike in Chinese arrivals had filled in a seasonal gap in the market, Chinese tourists were comparatively low “yield” compared to other markets.

“137 percent growth is huge, but that’s heads-on-beds,” Sim said. This had not “had the impact on yield as much as it should” because of lower-than-average length of stays, uptake of full board packages and a general disinclination among Chinese visitors to spend on resort restaurants, bars and excursions.

“What we’ve seen January to August is that while most traditional markets have grown, except Italy, there hasn’t been much difference in arrivals figures from Jan-August last year. But Germany, France and the UK are all registering growth and picking up.”

Seasonal dips in the Maldives market during warmer months in the northern hemisphere have historically been filled with the arrival of Russians and Japanese, Sim explained.

“he Japanese market is not growing – it used to be a good market but it hasn’t been showing growth, and we need to do more work in Japan,” he said.

Early visitors from Russia used to be among the highest yield tourists, “but they have since become more seasonal like everyone else.”

“South Africa would be a good market for us, but it requires good flight connections, perhaps via Mumbai.”

The Maldives was proving a victim of fashions in the travel industry, Sim noted, particularly in the high-end segment.

“Right now the Seychelles and Mauritius are in fashion. We haven’t done much in terms of destination marketing, and we have lost the buzz we used to have. We have no new products that people can afford, there’s been mismanagement of the local economy, and it’s been hard for the new government to put things back together,” he said.

“Environmental doomsday messages” had not helped attract investors either, he added.

“Hopefully the new budget will have more money for destination marketing.”


8 thoughts on “Surge in Chinese arrivals just a passing fad, cautions MATI”

  1. Come on Sim - you cant be serious about the Chinese. Dismiss them at your peril - They are getting wealthier and wealthier and more and more are starting to travel abroad - and if the tourism resorts in the Maldives do not provide them with what they want - Karaoke, Majong, Chopsticks, Chinese food - then you will turn away Millions of dollar - they will just go Thailand or other place like Sanya in Hainan Island instead. They also will not become Seasonal like the Europeans/Russians... Dont look a gift horse in the Mouth Mr Sim!

  2. Let me get this clear. Mr Sim is not happy with the new Chinese Market. He can hardly believe China is the world's fastest growing economy. He still want to have the Europeans around him. So he doesn't want to bring changes to sustain Maldives as a market for the Chinese...

  3. given china has more than 1 billion people repeat visitors are unnecessary so long as the remaining part of the one billion Chinese keep coming to the Maldives.

  4. ahmed!! of coz china is one billion but count the no. of people living without electricity in china and the no. of people who could afford Maldives. MATI is very right!! maldives should be marketed better and we should not forget the European market who got considerable no. who could afford us even during the economic crisis.

  5. Try and keep your tourism multi-national by providing what various people from different countries want..Chinese people do not sunbathe so what can you provide for them, to keep them coming??Europeans come for the sun,but insist that the islands are clean and trouble free--forget this at your peril!!!--Transport!!why is the new airport on Gan not open for international flights?? is someone or somebody thinking they may lose money if flights bypass Male..Lots of questions to be asked and answered in the Maldives...

  6. With China becoming the 2nd largest economy in the world and one with an increasing number of billionaires, not to mention millionaires, I think Maldives has an outstanding opportunity to continue its growth... if it has the necessary desire and attitude to capture this opportunity. Note that Bali in Indonesia had over 200,000 Chinese tourists in 2009 supported by over 750 tour guides that speak Mandarin. Many of my Chinese friends have been traveling internationally every year now for the past several years, and some are now taking two trips per year. While, yes, they want to experience many different parts of the world, they also like to repeat the things they like, just as everyone does. By the way, they love to shop... just check out the duty free stores at the airport!

  7. While China’s nouveaux riches share many of the tastes of their counterparts in any other part of the world why do we make such naïve statements and reach to conclusions without looking further? The rise of the Chinese consumer has provided extraordinary opportunities for many global markets and many now look to at China as their biggest growth market for an indefinite future.


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