Maldives starts welcoming back Chinese tourists with 'arms wide open' as key market returns for the first time since March 2020. Unlike several other destinations with strict screening procedures for Chinese travelers, Maldives chose to maintain normal screening procedures for Chinese tourists. What could be the outcome from this?

PUBLISHED February 01, 2023

Amjad Thaufeeg
Commercial Director
Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives
The opening of the Chinese market is very exciting news for the destination. I personally believe that we must take some precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the Chinese tourists and other tourists, and most importantly, the safety of the industry team members and the entire destination. Not only will the rest of the world prefer safer destinations to those that do not take precautionary measures, but many Chinese tourists will as well! As we all know, COVID is still spreading in China, so there is a high possibility that it could spread to the Maldives if appropriate actions are not taken. If such a thing happens, all other markets may introduce restrictions on Maldives travelers. I do not believe that requesting a negative PCR certificate is going to affect Chinese arrivals or demand. I understand that it is important to welcome everyone with open arms, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
There are 2 sides to the coin. The world is wide open now and people want to forget the pandemic, especially the COVID hassle. If we try to bring those policies back into action, there MIGHT be a negative wave towards us. I mean the Maldives. Tourism is very competitive. To be in the “league” we have to abide by the rules of the “league”. On the other hand, it’s maybe good to screen tourists arriving from high-risk areas of China, to keep our industry safe and sound. We cannot afford to close the borders, ever again! Since some countries are taking screening measures, I suggest doing an in-depth study on why and how they do, ie, are they very strict? What's the outcome? What are the procedures they use? Is it mandatory for all tourists arriving from China? So we must take all these into consideration, and then decide wisely. Before we make any such decisions, we must have regular dialogues, with key stakeholders from both countries.
I believe it's the resort's responsibility to take care of that. Having said that, if they want to visit Malé City or Hulhumalé there should be a proper screening procedure.
In the past, even with all the measures implemented, pandemic was inevitable as COVID-19 spread across the world. In my view, life must go on... New normal.
I think this looks good, we shouldn't make screening difficult and take this opportunity to recover the losses.
China is resuming group tours to 20 countries and it's good that Maldives is 1 of them. According to JPMorgan, average Chinese tourists spend four times that of other tourists. Considering the past pandemic, I think we should consider similar procedures for Italian, Indian and Chinese arrivals.
Chinese guests have always enjoyed their holidays in the Maldives through various activities and facilities. While some prefer cozy and easy-going islands, some want luxurious villas and private islands. According to the statistics published by the Ministry of Tourism, the highest number of arrivals to the Maldives were from China, and China ranked as the number one market in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Hence, we should refrain from implementing screening measures "only" for guests arriving from China. Let me also highlight that some countries do not consider COVID-19 more than seasonal flu; some even say, "it's time that we call a spade a spade".