Chinese tourist arrivals drop 34.8%

Chinese tourist arrivals dropped by 34.8 percent to 12,237 in February compared to the same point last year, according to Asian travel trade newspaper TTG.  Around 6,500 fewer tourists arrived from China last month, largely due to the cancellation of charter flights, which are expected to resume in April.

Visitor numbers to the Maldives dropped by 4.7 percent year on year in February following the political crisis, the industry paper revealed. Arrivals fell from 87,392 to 83,252, after having grown by 13.4 percent when compared with the same period in 2010.

Arrivals from the UK also fell, while visitors from France and Germany rose by 4.9 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Efforts including familiarisation trips arranged for the media and tour operators have been employed to reassure Chinese tour operators who appear to have been unnerved more than others by the upheavals following February 7.

The Chinese market makes up around a fifth of all tourist arrivals to the Maldives in a sector that indirectly contributes over 70 percent of the country’s GDP.

George Weinmann, Chief Executive of Mega Maldives Airlines, which charters flights between Male’ and multiple Chinese destinations, told the New York Times this week the full schedule of flights was to resume on April 4. He was confident that his business would continue to grow – its employee numbers have doubled in just over a year.

The Maldives sent a group of 200 to the recent ITB trade fair in Berlin, representing 65 companies, to reassure the international markets that the Maldives remained a safe travel destination.

The need for this public relations exercise was reflected by the words of Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Lord Howell, who felt the need to defend the country‘s image during discussion of the Maldives’ situation in the House of Lords on March 22.

“The Maldives, as my noble friend has said, remains the paradise and attractive tourist area that it has always been and continues to be, because at the moment we do not judge that there is any danger in the tourist areas,” said Howell.

The FCO lifted all travel restrictions to the UK on March, as did Germany, though it has been reported that tourists in resorts have been prevented from taking trips to the capital.

Politics in paradise

The alleged involvement of tourist resort magnates in February’s changeover of power has seen attempts to politicise the tourism industry, in particular to put pressure on tourists to avoid certain resorts.

In the UK, a Maldives Travel Advisory website has been established, grading a number of resorts on a traffic light system, ranging from ‘green’ sites which the advisory urges tourists to visit, ‘amber’ which are under consideration regarding their alleged involvement in the changeover, and ‘red’ which the advisory urges against travel to.

The selective nature of the boycott is indicative of the desire of all sides to shield the image of the tourist industry from long term damage. Of the 107 resorts currently listed on the website, only 12 are listed in the ‘red’ category, with another 12 in the ‘amber’ category.

The Friends of Maldives (FOM) group has attempted to publicise this travel advisory, for example by handing out leaflets outside of a meeting held by the Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor in London earlier this month.

This attempt did receive some coverage in the British Media, with prominent columnist for the The Daily Telegraph, Oliver Smith, writing, “The moral implications of visiting the Maldives have been called into question following the downfall of Mr Nasheed.”

Adheeb had earlier expressed concerns that the message of the political and geographical separation of the resorts from wider Maldivian society was not being made clear enough: “That message is not going out. People don’t know that the resorts are separate [from the rest of the Maldives], and international headlines have made people panic.”

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has employed the services of a professional PR company, Rooster Creative Public Relations Ltd to represent its interests in the UK, explaining, “The purpose of having a full time PR and Marketing agency is to overcome the image that is continuously spoiling in the UK market due to the current political turbulence.”

Despite the presence of some Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters outside of the venue who distributed literature relating to police brutality, the party insists that politics should not impinge on tourism.

In a recent interview, the former Minister for Tourism Dr Mariyam Zulfa told Minivan News, “It has never been the MDPs intention or any other political party’s intention to harm the economy in any way.”

Concerns that politics will damage the image of the destination could be premature. In the days after the coup, a report on Reuters that tourists “barely put down their cocktails during the political crisis” appears emblematic of the attitude of those seeking relaxation in paradise.

In a February poll taken on the Chinese social networking site Weibo, only a third of over 8000 respondents said that the coup had affected them. Tourists at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) who were recently asked their opinion about the politics in Male’ did not show concern.

A couple from London said they were unaware of any issues, whilst a Swiss tourist stated his belief that the problem was one for the state to deal with and should not concern tourists.


12 thoughts on “Chinese tourist arrivals drop 34.8%”

  1. @police guy,
    I think the fear and uncertainty of the tourists started in dec/jan when there were calls to close spas, ban alcohol and pork at island resorts.
    The same lot calling for these bans then overthrow the government - no wonder tourists numbers have fallen.Whose fault is that ??

  2. Remember the Maldives is not the only place in the world with sun/sand and sea,,but it is the only place called Gayoom PLC,,with Waheed as CEO..tourists will not go where there is trouble/unrest,,and certainly not to be ripped off at some of those resorts...

  3. Most tourists are brain-dead infidels that come here to fornicate, drink wine and pray to Oogah-boogah or whatever before they leave. They do not care about the MDP, PPM and such.

    These numbers are merely reflective of a transient phase of political turmoil briefly impacting the market.

    They’ll either come back eventually or recommend others to come by our way. Don’t worry about it.

  4. The MDP has not harmed tourism - the numbers were at an all time high when they were in charge. This is a result of a regime that has come into office using guns instead of the ballot box.
    Thank-you so much the COUP backers and Traitor Waheed!

  5. I think the only person brain dead is dhivehi Hanguraama. He/she must be a really thick, uneducated savage, I trust that visitor numbers will continue to fall from every nationality until the Maldives sorts itself out.

  6. Dhivehi Hanguraama you are so wrong. We do care about the political situation in your country. That is why there is a such a massive drop in Chinese visitors. They did not stop booking for no reason. Yes they might come back eventually but that might just be too late for your economy.

    You I suspect do not even know a single tourist and I have no idea of where you get your ideas about what we do whilst on holiday. Who or what is Oogah-boogah by the way? No. Don't bother answering.

  7. @ Bill

    "I think the only person brain dead is dhivehi Hanguraama."
    I nearly spilled my coffeee over me. This is the funniest sentence I have read in Minivan ever since JJ was sent back. 🙂

  8. I have been in Maldives several times and I kniow most of the people are sensible and kind. You will always have some who treat human beings like animals even if they make you or your family earn a living!!!I hope somebody will show them the way one day!!!

  9. @ Dhivehi Hanguraama
    "Most tourists are brain-dead infidels that come here to fornicate, drink wine and pray to Oogah-boogah or whatever before they leave."
    All people who believe this are small and pathetic individuals who offend all cultures and religious believes.

  10. The new regime ate the only isk to tourism, the previous government did a brilliant job and broke all records!


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