Tourist arrivals to the Maldives recorded monthly averages of a little over 103,000 from 2012 until 2018, reaching an all-time high of 144,000 in February of 2018. At the end of September 2018, the Maldives has seen an 8.3 per cent increase in tourist arrivals, comparative to the same period in 2017. A total of 1,080,459 tourists visited the Maldives by the end of September 2018, according to statistics released by the Tourism Ministry, with 107,620 visitors recorded in September alone. The third quarter of 2018 saw a 4 per cent increase in tourist arrivals, compared to the same quarter in 2017.

The Maldives welcomed its one-millionth visitor of 2018 in September, marking the milestone a month ahead of arrival figures when compared to 2017. Last year, the one-millionth mark was reached in October. Despite the failure to reach arrival targets of 1.5 million visitors over the previous years, the outlook is set to see positive developments with the completion of the US$1.2 billion Velana International Airport expansion project.

The landing of the first-ever A380-800 Airbus giant in the Maldives in September was a significant step in the development project. Speaking to the local media in September, Moosa Zameer, the Tourism Minister, highlighted that efforts to attract more visitors to the country were in full swing, as Velana International Airport will be able to cater to over 7 million visitors with the completion of its expansion project.

Echoing these remarks, Haris Mohamed, Acting Managing Director of MMRPC, commented that the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) will strengthen its destination marketing campaign in line with the progress of the VIA expansion project. Speaking to the local media in September, Haris said that MMPRC was conducting destination marketing campaigns across all regions on a monthly basis, which is expected to be strengthened soon.

The tourism industry fared positively in the third quarter of 2018, comparative of the same period last year, despite a slow growth. Looking at September, arrivals were up 1.5 per cent, compared to the total arrival of 105,984 in September 2017. Arrivals figures grew 8.1 per cent and 2.2 per cent in July and August 2018, respectively, compared to the corresponding periods the previous year.

Looking at the occupancy rate, the resort segment is on a decline in September and recorded at 59.5 per cent, from 77.9 per cent in the previous month. The occupancy rate in July was recorded at 71.7 per cent, it is set to pick up starting October with the average occupancy rate for all segments by the end of September clocked at 61.3 per cent.

The growth in the European market, the top market region this year contributing 48 per cent of the total arrivals, stemmed from a significant rise in arrivals from France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany. A total of 516,487 European visitors arrived in the Maldives by the end of September, it breaks down amongst the top 10 markets to 83,311 from the U.K., 80,253 from Germany, 73,920 from Italy, and 36,970 from France, averaging growth of 7.7 per cent, 7.4 per cent, 6.8 per cent, and 3.4 per cent, respectively.

Despite a negative -6.3 per cent growth of arrivals from China, it contributed over 20.6 per cent of the total arrivals, accounting to 22,108 in total. In spite of this, the Asia and the Pacific region accounted to over 43 per cent of the total visitor numbers, coupled with the growth in arrivals from India, at 56,319 visitors, and a 49.4 per cent increase in Australian visitor numbers. 51,082 Russian tourists visited the country by the end of September, accounting to 4.7 per cent of the arrivals, followed by Japan and Australia at 30,465 and 27,778, respectively. The number of visitors from the United States was recorded at 30,199, with the Americas accounting to 5 per cent of the arrivals, followed by 4 per cent from the Middle East.

During the last three years, the number of resorts in operation has increased from 109 in 2016, 121 in 2017, and 139 in 2018; and with that, beds in operation till the end of September 2018 increased by 8.8 per cent and 11.5 per cent in 2017 and September 2018, respectively, with the number of beds increasing from 24,049 in 2016, 26,706 in 2017 and to 30,159 in 2018.

With the current figures at hand, a lot more needs to done in order to reach arrival target goals, of which one of the biggest tasks is destination marketing. While we can no longer assume that tourists come into to see landmark attractions, the Maldives needs to actively promote the destination to attract more visitors. Five trends that can further drive the promotion of the Maldives as a destination include video content, influencer marketing, mobiles, and understanding the impact of fake news and storytelling.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Featured image courtesy of Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL).