Official Tourism Ministry figures have recorded a 3.7 percent drop in arrivals to the Maldives last month when compared to the same period last year.
It is the first time since May 2012 that monthly arrivals to the country have fallen on a year-on-year basis.
Despite the monthly decline, arrival numbers rose by 2.4 percent between January and November when compared to the same period in 2011.
The official figures indicate that as of November 2012, 866,310 tourists have arrived in the country over the last 11 months. By contrast, 845,732 arrivals were recorded visiting the Maldives between January and November in 2011.
Earlier this year, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) had set a target of attracting one million visitors to the country by the end of 2012.
According to the latest ministry figures, tourist arrivals during November from Britain fell 13.8 percent to 7,164, while Chinese visitors to the country rose 9.2 percent to 18,450 during the same month. China has accounted for 24.7 percent of all tourist arrivals to the country during the year so far.
Visitors from Germany decreased 13.2 percent to 8,729 in November, while Italian arrivals decreased by 35.9 percent to 3,551 during the same month.
The MMPRC had this year been allocated a budget of MVR 70 million (US$4.5 million) to conduct marketing activities for the year, almost double last year’s budget of US$2.3 million which saw the country receive 900,000 tourist arrivals.
Following February’s controversial transfer of power, the incoming government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan sought to utilise public relations groups and advertising to try and offset the impact of negative news headlines resulting from the controversial nature of the change in government.
This focus has included agreeing on a US$250,000 (MVR3.8million) advertising deal to promote the country’s tourism industry on the BBC through sponsorship of its weather services, as well as signing a £93,000 per month (US$150,000) contract with public relations group Ruder Finn to try and improve the country’s image internationally.
With these focuses in place, Maldives tourism authorities said back in October that they were confident the country could meet its one million visitor target, despite ongoing “political turmoil” in the Maldives over the last year.
Speaking to local media in the same month, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor said that should the Maldives achieve its aims of attracting one million visitors during 2012, it could be effectively seen as being equivalent to welcoming two million arrivals to the country.
Adheeb claimed this statement was made taking into account the challenges in overcoming the impact of “political turmoil” on the country’s reputation following February’s power transfer.
“We are closing in on that target with a lot of challenges. We are working with major obstacles due to the present crisis in the country,” Adheeb was quoted as saying at the time.
Adheeb and Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.