The Maldives has reached one million tourist arrivals for the current year, with the Tourism Ministry announcing that 1,000,203 had visited the country as of Monday (November 25).
The Maldivian government had narrowly failed to reach this milestone target in 2012, after a year of political turmoil and an economic slump in key markets.
“It’s a major victory for the whole country,” recently re-appointed Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb was quoted as telling media yesterday.
“This victory has been made possible amidst boycott campaigns and other such obstacles. Resort owners, ministry employees and MMPRC have worked really hard for this.”
Repeated delays to the scheduled presidential elections recently brought threats of prolonged strike actions from leading tourism industry groups, including the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM).
In late October the People’s Majlis accepted a bill that would criminalise any actions calling for a tourism boycott, supporting or endorsing a boycott, participating in a boycott, or any act that would incite fear amongst tourists.
Previously this month, the Finance Ministry revealed that “political turmoil” had caused growth in the tourism industry to stall in 2012, though it did anticipate that the sector – responsible for around 28 percent of GDP in each of the past five years – would return to growth this year.
The Tourism Ministry revealed yesterday that the “Maldives received 925,413 tourists at the end of October 2013 and 783,999 tourists at the end of October 2012, which is an increase of 18% compared to the same period of last year.”
“A total 284,926 Chinese tourists visited the Maldives which is 30.8% of the total arrivals to the Maldives and is the highest arrival from a single source market,” continued the ministry’s press release.
The large numbers of Chinese arrivals to the country’s idyllic resorts, the Finance Ministry has suggested previously, was increasing arrivals whilst reducing the relative value of the industry.
“As the most number of tourists to the country now come from China, we note that the low number of nights on average that a Chinese tourist spends in the Maldives has an adverse effect on the tourism sector’s GDP,” read the Finance Ministry’s ‘Fiscal and Economic Outlook: 2012 to 2016’ statement this month.
Recent tourism statistics show that, whilst there was a slight growth in European arrivals this year, the overall share of the market is now dominated by Asia.
Prominent resort owner and leader of the government-aligned Maldivian Development Alliance Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam has blamed the relative decline in the European market on the state’s failure to properly market the destination.
The official hashtag of London’s World Travel Market was hijacked by Maldivian pro-democracy activists this month, making global headlines by linking prominent resort owners with the overthrow of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
A similar tactic was used by anti-government protesters in 2012 as the government re-launched the ‘Sunny side of life’ slogan that had been temporarily replaced under Nasheed’s tenure.
In order to celebrate the one million tourist milestone, the Ministry of Tourism together with Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation and the Airport Reps Association of Maldives will be holding a week of celebrations at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport between December 25 to December 31.