China top tourism market for Maldives, India close second

 Thursday, July 25, 2019 


In recent developments it has been observed that Indian tourists have become the second largest holiday-makers in Maldives in the current year, pushing traditional European tourists down the rung. China, however, continues to lead, with equitable additions to the numbers, all of it attributable to political stability after a decade and more of ‘democracy readjustments’ in the Indian Ocean archipelago.


According to official figures released by Maldivian Tourism Minister Ali Waheed, as many as 82,140 Indian tourists have visited the country in the first six months of the year 2019, as against a total of 90,474 for the whole of 2018. The 2018 figure too was 16,000 more compared to a decade earlier, indicating an emerging trend early on.


Minister Waheed pointed out that the current figures amounted to 10 per cent Indian share in the total tourist arrivals in the first six months. It should be even more encouraging when the minister pointed out that they expected the figure to increase two-fold by the year-end.


Observers of the Maldivian scene have been noticing a steep increase in tourism-related reportage targeting the Indian holiday-makers, especially over the past few months. Weekly news reports, put out on tourism websites and other social media outlets, highlighted increasing frequency with which Bollywood celebrities have been holidaying in Maldivian resorts.


In recent weeks, there have also been occasional reports about such holiday-making involving South Indian film personalities like Trisha Krishnan. Indications are that such sustained efforts seemed to have paid off. This is not to leave out the road-shows organised by the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) in Indian cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Chandigarh.


Given the high-spending nature of Maldivian tourism, European markets were the traditionally favoured lot. The end-2004 Boxing Day tsunami, coupled with the global economic downturn since 2008 changed all that. The latter occurred even as Maldives was recovering from the loss and destruction caused by the tsunami. The nation’s imaginative tourism managers turned to untapped neighbourhood market, like China and India.


China, which responded in double quick-time, continues to be the tourism-topper as far as Maldives is concerned, to the present-day.


Bucking the down-trend since 2015, the number of Chinese holiday-makers grew 10 per cent and reached 140,265 by the end of June, continuing growth recorded during a strong first quarter.


It remains to be seen if the Indian holiday-makers, overall, become high-spenders, which is the back-bone of Maldivian tourism industry as also the nation’s economy — or, if they would remain low-end spenders like their Chinese counterparts have been. However, MMPRC chief Thoyyib Mohamed said, “We are working closely with the industry partners to promote Maldives as the ideal holiday destination among luxury-travellers.”


Unrelated to India relations, talking to the Chinese Xinhua news agency, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid also highlighted the fact that China has been the biggest market for Maldivian tourism for the past 10 years. As he pointed out, China in 2019 comprised 14.7 per cent of all tourist arrivals in the current year.


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