Weak Russian ruble sees drop in resort bookings

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb has noted that the fall in the price of the Russian ruble has affected occupancy rates in the Maldives.

Local media outlet Haveeru has reported industry insiders as saying that bookings are at a five-year low, with some anticipating the Russian market could drop by 10 percent.

Russia represented the fourth biggest source of tourists to the Maldives in 2013, with 76,479 people making up 6.8 percent of the total market share. As the second fastest growing tourist market in the world (behind China), arrivals to the Maldives from Russia have grown by an average of 10.7 percent over the past five years.

A combination of low oil prices and Western sanctions on Russia in relation to the conflict in the Ukraine has seen the rouble fall to an all-time low this month.

While Adeeb said he was confident the government would meet its target of 1.2 million tourist arrivals in 2014, he said the country must diversify its tourism markets: “The international arena is heating up,” he told a press conference on Monday.

The current government has suggested that diversification of the economy – to be encouraged through the Special Economic Zones Act – will reduce the country’s vulnerability to external shocks.

Tourism currently contributes directly to around 35 percent of the country’s GDP.