Maldives has been one of the few destinations in the world to have its borders opened for tourism and the only in South Asia. Having the national vaccinations campaign for COVID-19 launched on February 1, 2021 - would this entail a demand in attracting tourists? Do you think this would have a significant impact on tourist arrivals for 2021?

PUBLISHED February 07, 2021

Ahmed Afrah
National Boating Association (NBAM)
Today, safety will be the top priority for any holiday maker when choosing their holiday destination. The Maldives, with our naturally isolated islands and a range of liveaboards options, caters very well to that requirement. And when you further add the fact that our small nation has commenced a national vaccination campaign and has emphasised on vaccinating the frontline tourism workers, this will give even more confidence to the traveller. Vaccination will also ease the anxiety which tourism workers and their families currently have and this ease of mind will result in better service to the holidaymakers. I am confident that a successful national vaccination campaign will have a significant positive impact on the tourist arrivals for this year.
I firmly believe that the vaccination programme will have a significant positive impact on the tourist arrivals for 2021. Our small population and geographically dispersed islands have helped us so far in many ways during this pandemic. Further, together with the vaccination, my say on this is that we may even end up having a growth in tourist arrivals in 2021 compared to previous best years.
While the risk to public health in the island nation is relatively low, the economic costs are estimated to be devastating. As in most countries around the world, the working class in the Maldives, particularly from the hospitality industry, is disproportionately affected. This vaccination programme in the Maldives is critical for the prevention and control of infectious-disease outbreaks. They underpin global health security and will be a vital tool in the battle against antimicrobial resistance of the people of Maldives and the national economy. I urge to speed the programme of the nation-wide vaccination in the country, for surely this will help our nation tremendously.
What keeps tourists visiting the Maldives are threefold. One, that our borders are open, secondly, the health and safety status of the destination, and thirdly, the boundless beauty of this country. This reality and perception of how COVID-19 has been significantly well-managed compared to our other competitors makes us a more favourable place to visit under these dire circumstances. To know that the Maldives is carrying out a mass vaccination programme to cover the entire population will further increase the confidence for those travelling to the country, and I believe this will help boost a positive attitude towards the Maldives which directly leads to increased arrivals.
Maldives had always been, because of its geography, very attractive for tourists looking to have a detached holiday. Our protocols of opening and keeping safe offered better confidence. The availability of vaccines, especially on offer to staff at resorts will only offer additional confidence
With so many new beds coming in every year, the Maldives has changed from excess-demand-over-supply destination to a surplus-beds-destination and much work is needed to tap into new segments and new countries as source markets. With the COVID-19 vaccination programme underway, it will bring safety to the front-liners and to the people of Maldives. Demand is from the source market, and if source markets adopt a policy of restricting travel (like in Italy), then there will not be an increase in demand. But let’s say a government such as China decides to allow the Maldives as a safe bubble for Chinese New Year, in addition to the Maldives vaccination programme taking place, then demand could increase during Q1 and Q2. Of course, there will be an increase in demand as the world gets vaccinated and starts travelling in Q3 and Q4, 2021, but we also have to bear in mind that most of the world economies are in a recession and we may have to continue with our discounts.