Tourist arrivals to Maldives rose by 15.9 percent in November, recording its highest year-on-year (YoY) growth in 2016 to 104, 572 as the arrivals from all major regions picked up from a year ago but the visitors from China, its largest sourcing market continued to falter, the data released by the Maldivian Department of Immigration and Emigration showed.
For the eleven months to November, arrivals to the Indian Ocean archipelago rose by a modest 4.6 percent to 1.17 million. This is in comparison to 2.05 million visitors to Sri Lanka, Maldives’ closest rival.
Maldives attracted little over a quarter of a million visitors from China but in recent times the numbers have been waning.
In November, Chinese arrivals declined by 4.5 percent YoY to 19, 856 while the eleven months arrivals declined by a sharp 10.2 percent YoY to 308, 077.
In recent times the arrivals to Maldives were adversely impacted by tensed domestic politics, which scared away the visitors, tensions in other source markets and the global economic downturn.
According to sector specialists, a ‘hard Brexit’ could also weigh on the arrivals from the Britain to Maldives as the sterling hit its 31 year low early this week to an expected announcement by the Prime Minister seeking a clean break from the European Union’s single market.
Visitors from Britain rose by 15.3 percent YoY to 8,071 in November and account for 8.0 percent of total arrivals to Maldives.
Nevertheless Sri Lanka is less likely to be affected by a ‘hard Brexit’, unless it leads to a deep recession because Sri Lanka’s facilities are priced much lower to those in the Maldives.
Despite this gloomy outlook, many Sri Lankan hotel operators continued to remain optimistic as both established and new players increased their investments in hotels and resorts in the island, pinning their hopes on high-end segment.
Sri Lanka’s largest leisure sector operators, John Keells Holdings PLC and Aitken Spence PLC are also the largest resort operators in the Maldives.
Besides them, Hayleys group leisure arm, Amaya Leisure recently bought a 2-year old resort in a 7-acre Maldivian island for US$ 25 million. The Sanken Construction Group opened 4–star resort and plans further expansion.
Meanwhile, Galle Face Hotel fame Ceylon Hotel Corporation also entered the Maldives recently with plans to construct a US$ 28 million property with many other newer players entering the archipelago.
In November, 1,295 Sri Lankans visited Maldives, a big jump from 881 a year ago. During the eleven months, 15,889 Sri Lankans visited Maldives, recording a growth of 28.5 percent YoY
Arrivals from India have also picked up by 28.1 percent during the period to 57, 264, accounting for almost 5.0 percent of the inward market.
After North East Asian region led by China, which accounted for one third of the arrivals to Maldives, Western Europe came second with a share of 16.6 percent led by German tourists.
Despite the drop in the mid-level market, the high-end arrivals remain a thrust market for Maldives and the hotel operators are seen looking to leverage this segment.