The popular vacation destination in the Indian Ocean, Maldives was one of the first countries to fully reopen to travelers and now it is striving to be ahead of the game when it comes to vaccine tourism.
Officials of Maldives have announced plans to offer vaccinations to tourists on arrival in a bid to lure more visitors over. Abdulla Mausoom, the country’s minister for tourism, has confirmed that the Maldives is developing a “3V tourism” scheme, which would allow tourists to “Visit, Vaccinate and Vacation.”
According to Mr. Mausoom, the country plans to offer two doses of the vaccine to visitors, which means those who sign up for it would need to remain in the Maldives for several weeks. He hopes the program will help boost tourism on the Indian Ocean island archipelago, which had an average of 1.7 million visitors a year before the pandemic.
When will the vaxication begin?
However, international travelers keen to book a “vaxication” package to the Maldives will need to wait, at least for now. The “3V” scheme will not go ahead until the country’s entire population, estimated at just under 550,000, is fully vaccinated.
“The main idea of tourism being open is to provide reasonably safe tourism with minimum inconvenience,” Mr. Mausoom said. “So once the country gets vaccinated, then we will move on to ‘3V’ tourism.”
He went on to confirm that around 53 percent of the population has received their first dose of the vaccine, including 90 percent of front-line tourism workers.
Key role of tourism
According to data tourism contributes 28 percent of the Maldives’s GDP, one of the highest totals in the world.
In February, Thoyyib Mohame, managing director of the Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation, said that the country has received 555,494 visitors in 2020, surpassing its adjusted arrival forecast of 500,000.
“Our biggest advantage is the unique geographical features of Maldives,” he said, explaining that the fact that the guests can be dispersed across its different islands had proved particularly alluring to travelers and also meant that social distancing measures were slightly easier to maintain. “We promoted the destination as a safe haven to the tourists.”
Vaccinating its citizens
Mr. Mausoom hopes the vaccine program will push visitor numbers up even further. According to the minister, the country has received vaccine donations from India, China, as well as the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme and is currently awaiting an additional order from Singapore.
“I don’t think supply’s a problem in Maldives because our population is relatively small,” he said. “The quota we get from the various organizations and friendly nations also will help.” However, he did not specify if travelers would be charged for receiving the vaccine.
At present, there are at least 500 resorts and guest houses in the Maldives that are open to international visitors. The Maldives closed its borders in late March, but officials opted to fully reopen to all international travelers with no restrictions in July. While visitors have been required to produce a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival since September, the destination has continued to welcome travelers over the past few months with cases remaining relatively low.