Maldives reopens its borders after 110 days

Maldives has reopened its international borders after 110 days.

After almost four months since the suspension of on-arrival tourist visas on March 27, the Maldives tourism industry reopened for tourists with enhanced precautionary measures against COVID-19. The first tourists arrived onboard Qatar Airways which landed in Velana International Airport (VIA). Connecting from various countries, 107 tourists and 24 Maldivians arrived on the first commercial flight to land in the Maldives.

The first visitors were welcomed by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Aishath Nahula, Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, acting Managing Director of the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) Moosa Solih, senior dignitaries of government and industry stakeholders. The flight was welcomed by a water salute.

The tourism sector is the worst hit of all major economic sectors with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially true in the Maldives, where tourism accounts for the majority of foreign exchange earnings. Nevertheless, the health and the safety of tourists and residents in the Maldives have always been paramount and the resumption of the tourism industry was only given the go ahead following extensive consultations with health professionals and all stakeholders.

A COVID-19 safe tourism guideline has been issued by the tourism ministry along with a certification programme to ensure the safety and hygiene standards of all tourism facilities which include accommodation, transportation, airports and other related facilities. Resorts, hotels and liveaboards located on uninhabited islands are allowed to resume operations from July 15, whereas hotels and guest houses located on inhabited islands will be allowed to open from August 1. A total of 40 resorts are in operation as the Maldives reopen the borders.

Maldives registered a record breaking 1.7 million tourist arrivals in 2019, the highest number of tourists to have visited the country in one year. Maldives has set a target of 850,000 tourist arrivals by the end of 2020 despite the setback due the COVID-19 pandemic. The country initially set a target of 2 million tourist arrivals for 2020.