2020 was not a favorable year for travel lovers and tourist destinations. But one place has made it past the pandemic year with flying colors.
The Maldives, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean island, is practically synonymous with romance and is a favorite among travelers. Though the destination normally sees more than 1.7 million visitors every year, in 2020 it had only around 500,000. But, despite the significant decrease, Maldives has one of the most successful tourism stories amid the pandemic.
Response to COVID-19
While many other destinations slammed their borders shut, the Maldives chose to fully reopen to travelers from any country, regardless of the status of the virus there, in July 2020. Part of the decision was financial. According to data, tourism contributes 28 percent of the Maldives’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), one of the highest totals in the world.
The country’s geography also works well with coronavirus protocols. Many hotels and resorts are on their own private islands, there are more than a thousand to choose from, which makes isolating and social distancing exceptionally easy.
Countries around Asia and the Pacific have been more cautious about reopening than those in Europe and North America, meaning that tourists in the region had few options for places to go.
As other popular Asia-Pacific island getaways like Tahiti, Bali and Phuket remained off-limits, the Maldives took advantage of the fact that they were in a relatively good situation with the virus. The places that have since reopened have done so with significant requirements. For example, Thailand and Sri Lanka both require a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine before being able to travel elsewhere in-country.
Understandably, there were some issues. The Maldives reopened unconditionally in July, only to say in September that all travelers will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.
The Maldives’ heavy reliance on ultra-luxury resorts also worked in its favor when it came to testing and social distancing. For example, some high-end resorts conduct additional in-resort COVID-19 testing as an added layer of protection against the spread of the virus.
Infrastructure played a role as well. Many resorts have private boat or plane transfers built into their packages, meaning that visitors who arrived in the country could get to their final destinations without encountering many, if any, other tourists.
The destination didn’t have significantly more visitors in 2020 than they did in 2019, but there was a massive increase in the amount of time these visitors were spending there.
As a direct response to the increased amount of time visitors were spending in the Maldives and the fact that most people were going digital-only for work and school, many resorts have devised special packages for guests staying a full month. For instance, a prominent resort now offers a 28-day package which includes meals, high-speed internet, wellness activities and use of a kids’ club and is priced from $42,600 for a family of four.