Maldives has seen a major drop of arrival numbers due to temporary suspension of tourists from South Asian destinations. What’s your opinion on lifting the suspension with extra measures?

PUBLISHED July 01, 2021

Mohamed Ali Janah
National Federation of Maldivian Employers Managing Director, Hotels & Resort Construction Pvt Ltd
As I have always advocated a cautious approach and a balanced policy are two important factors to manage a vulnerable economy like ours especially when we are so dependent on limited resources. The tourism industry and the construction industry are hit very heavily due to the closure of borders to South Asia. We totally accept that it was a necessity with the various types of variants that hit our country. I propose a two-pronged approach. For South Asian expats we must get them through a paid, controlled and managed quarantine. Some countries in the Middle East start the management of these expats from the time they land at the airport till they are taken to the quarantine hotels. After seven days they do a PCR test and give them the green codes for PCR negative propel and they have an application with a QR green code so that they can join the workforce or even move around the city/country. Unless their QR code is green free movement is not allowed. Opening up the borders for tourists is a very risky process. But depending on the pandemic situation in the country of origin, we can first open borders to tourist resorts and safari boats and yachts where they can be managed, away from the local population. There would be no connectivity to the inhabited islands and these tourists. Maldives should categorize country wise alert levels for the countries of origin and when a country is green, they could allow them to visit with a 96-hour PCR negative test. This would be for those wishing to stay at guest houses and other inhabited islands. Bottom line is just as we manage locally, the international travelers should be brought through a managed process. There can be no free borders as we have experienced the consequences of it ourselves.
I personally do not feel the increase was due to tourist arrivals from South Asia, to start with. It is my opinion that we should open borders soon to tourist arrivals into resorts, but not to the guesthouses located in densely populated islands. The key to surviving the Covid pandemic is not hiding from it, but facing it with proper preventive measures. Wear a mask to stay safe.
We cannot live with lock down process. I am all for open with strict guidelines. Government cannot provide packages throughout. Most of the Resorts are in worse condition than SMEs, as per them. Loans to employers will create a debt trap. We need a way to stand and move forward so we can lessen the expenditure. Need strict guidelines and move forward. Current status is due to allowing India variant without preventive guidelines. We shall learn from those and move forward by carefully opening with preventive measures.
Until the countries itself get to control or manage their cases, it will be a terrible idea to lift the suspension even with extra measures as of now. It can cause Maldives to be the reason to spread the variant all over the world. As soon as the situation gets better, we will be more than happy to welcome them here.
With extra measures it should be lifted. Even then Ministry of Tourism could have worked for this without a complete ban, yet I believe there would be challenges too. A total ban has very negative impact compared to tight measures and strict guidelines. All are happy to follow a guideline even if it is ridiculously tight. People are trapped and so eagerly awaiting to move.
South Asian market shares are very important for Maldives tourism these days. It will be good to open with proper guidelines. Like: Each client to do a PCR test on arrival and for them to stay in quarantine till they get the results. At this moment, I do not recommend to open Male cities and local islands.