Tourist arrivals for January 2013 were down by 7.6 percent compared to the same month in 2012, figures from the Ministry of Tourism have revealed.
Earlier this month, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media he was confident the Maldives would reach one million tourist arrivals in 2013, after narrowly falling short of the same target for 2012.
However, figures released by the ministry show that tourist arrivals from Europe and Asia – the two largest markets – had fallen by 4.4 percent and 16.8 percent respectively in January 2013 when compared to the same month in 2012.
According to figures from the tourism ministry, last month was the first time in three years there had been a decline in tourists coming to the Maldives in January when compared to figures from previous years for the same month.
The monthly number of Chinese tourists arriving in the Maldives fell for the first time in over six months compared to figures from previous years.
China, which holds the largest share of the arrivals to the Maldives at 21.6 percent, fell by 31.4 percent from 28,008 in January 2012 to 19,208 in January 2013.
The European market continues its steady decline, with Italy – which held the largest share of tourist arrivals in Europe in January 2012 – falling by 32.5 percent from 10,451 to 7,050 in January 2013.
Russia now holds the largest share of tourists for all countries classified under ‘Europe’ by the ministry, accounting for 10.2 percent of all arrivals in January 2013 at 9,061.
Arrivals from United Kingdom fell from 7,001 in January 2012 to 6,367 in January 2013, while German arrivals – which account for the third largest share of the European arrival market – fell by eight percent when compared to the same month in 2012.
In contrast, India’s tourist arrivals grew by 51.2 percent from 2,303 to 3,483 and arrivals from countries in the Middle East increased from 1,303 to 2,312.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Tourism budget increased by MVR 60 million
Earlier this month, the tourism budget for 2013 was increased from MVR 20 million (US$1.2 million) to MVR 80 million (US$5.1 million).
The increase came after criticism from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI), who last month called for the government to reconsider the MVR 20 million budget allocated for tourism marketing in 2013.
The initial sum of money allocated was the lowest in eight years, according to a statement from MATI, which highlighted concerns that the Maldives’ economy was mostly reliant on tourism.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media that the ministry had initially requested a budget of MVR 200 million (US$12.9 million) to carry out tourism promotion for the year, however parliament had “erased a zero” from the figure when finalising the budget.
Adheeb noted that while tourism promotion is expensive, the revenue generated from the industry “drives the entire engine”.
“When we put down MVR 200 million, the government authorities don’t actually realise the priority that this requires. Parliament erased a zero from the MVR 200 million we proposed, and gave us MVR 20 million,” he told Sun Online.
“Then we had to work in all other different ways, and now the Finance Minister has committed to give us MVR 60 million more.”