HELPED by better air access, tourism in the Maldives is picking up this year, after a dismal first quarter in 2012 owing to political tensions.
Arrivals from China, the worst hit after president Mohamed Nasheed resigned last February, swelled in January-March 2013 to some 70,570 arrivals, up 51.2 per cent over the same period last year. China accounted for 24.1 per cent of total tourist arrivals to the Maldives in the quarter, remaining the largest source market for the Maldives.
Michelle Flake, contracting and marketing manager for Scaevola Travel Maldives, said the entry of Turkish Airlines last November had contributed to a rise in travellers from Eastern Europe – particularly Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic – as the airline provides a good connection in European hubs.
Currently flying to Malé five times a week, the carrier is planning to increase frequency to daily, she added.
With Korean Air’s new thrice-weekly flights from last month, the South Korean market is also starting to flourish, noted Viluxur Holidays Maldives managing director, Shafraz Fazley.
Adam Mohamed, CEO of state-owned Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation, said March arrivals saw 30 per cent year-on-year growth, while first-quarter growth was 14 per cent.
“All markets are doing well. Even the UK has seen a rise, even though marginal, while others from Europe are also doing well,” he said, adding that the Maldives should easily hit the one million mark this year.
Among other top growth markets were Turkey (up 138.4 per cent in the first quarter), Poland (up 68.1 per cent) and the US (up 36.5 per cent).