Despite the various challenges, the hospitality and tourism industry of the Maldives has been resilient, and the performance of the sector of the showed improvement in the year 2016 compared to the year 2015. With a total arrival of 1,286,135 inbound international tourists, the industry recorded an annual average tourist arrival growth rate of 4.2% in 2016 while the figure for 2015 was only 2.4%.
Impressive double digit growth rates were experienced in the months of January, October and November. Also, as per the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, the global annual average tourist arrival growth rate for the year was 3.9% year-on-year which is slightly lower than the rate for Maldives.
This, however is only a 92% achievement of the Government’s target of 1.4 million tourists for the year 2016. With the inauguration of the ‘Visit Maldives Year 2016’ (VMY2016) campaign, the Government initially announced a tourist arrival target of 1.5 million for the year which was later revised on September to 1.4 million due to the lower than expected performance.
Moving further to the rest of the indicators, occupancy rate and bed nights also followed a similar trend as arrival growth for most of the months. And a minor reduction in the average duration of stay by visitors were identified with 5.6 days in 2016 from 5.7 days in 2015.
Looking into the regional source markets, with the continued moderate recovery of the Eurozone economies in 2016, the outbound tourist arrival from Europe to Maldives has picked up. After a steady decrease in market share for the past several years, a positive increment in the market share was seen for the first time in 2016 from the region. Meanwhile, the growth momentum in the market share from Asia and the Pacific region stagnated with a share of 46.5%.
A closer look at the key national source markets enlightens these trends. The 9.8% reduction in outbound tourists from China- the market leader for inbound international tourists to the Maldives and decrease in arrivals from markets such as Korea has led to this reduction in the regional market share from Asia and the Pacific.
However, outbound tourists from China and Korea recorded a global year-on-year increment of 18% and 11% respectively (ITB World Travel Trends Report 2016/2017). Furthermore, strong positive growths were identified from major European markets except for France. Other key markets with robust year-on-year arrival growth include India, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.
As there are four major types of accommodation available for tourists in the Maldives, almost 87% of the operational capacity as the end of 2016 came from resorts while less than 15% came from the rest of the three types. Also, the bed capacity from resorts saw an increment of 11% with the opening of several new properties.
Contrastingly, despite the steady increase in demand or accommodation types such as guest houses and safari vessels, the operational capacity fell by 18.5% and 11.6% respectively.
Further analysis on the occupancy trends by type of accommodation, it shows that though resort accommodation is preferred by majority of the tourists, there has been a steady increase in demand for guest houses. These trends indicate that the number of budget travelers visiting Maldives are on the rise.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
In order to cater to the increasing demand in the tourism industry, the country has been investing continuously in developing the supporting infrastructure and connectivity.
The commencement of the expansion of the main airport of the Maldives by the Government during mid 2016 is a major development in providing a quality overall experience to the visitors as well as a key to the expansion of the tourism industry of the country at large. The mega project is expected to be completed by 2018 with a new runway measuring a length of 3,400 meters and a width of 60 meters along with a 120,000 cargo terminal and a fuel farm.
Also, towards the end of the year, the Government made a decision to rebrand the name of the airport from Ibrahim Nasir international Airport (INIA) to Velana International Airport (VIA) effective from 1st of January 2017.
Moreover, in terms of connectivity, several new airlines commenced seasonal flights and regular flights to Maldives during the year including Saudi Airlines.
Popularity of the Destination
Maldives has been continuously maintaining its position as being one of the most prominent and renowned holiday destinations in the world. Like the past several years, the year 2016 is another winning year with many awards and recognitions.
Maldives received several outstanding achievements from both the Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony held in Zanzibar, Tanzania and at the Grand Final Gala Ceremony held in Maldives under the 23rd World Travel Awards 2016. Some of these prestigious awards won by the Maldives include World’s Leading Beach Destination, World’s Leading Dive Destination, Indian Ocean’s Leading Destination, Indian Ocean’s Leading Beach Destination, Indian Ocean’s Leading Dive Destination, and Indian Ocean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination.