The Maldives political crisis exacerbated by the declaration of a state of emergency will hurt tourism particularly the Chinese market just as the recovery was happening, industry officials said. Tourism represents over 70 per cent of the country’s foreign revenue.
“Emails are flowing in, phones are ringing constantly seeking information in the situation,” said a worried Abdulla Ghiyas, Deputy Managing Director at Inner Maldives Holiday, told TimesOnline.
A week after the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of high-profile prisoners including the former president Mohamed Nasheed and former vice president Ahmed Adeeb, President Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency and suspended parliament. Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, estranged half-brother of Yameen, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court were arrested in a crackdown on Monday.
Ghiyas, also President of the Maldives Association for Travel Agents & Tour Operators (MATATO), said resorts particularly near the airport had reported full bookings for the next two weeks which covers the Chinese New Year on February 16.
“A travel warning from Chinese authorities urging the Chinese to avoid visiting the Maldives until the situation improves has aggravated our situation,” he said, adding that travel insurance rates would rise.
Officials at SriLankan Airlines in Maldives said so far they have not seen any cancellations but said the Chinese government advisory was an issue. The Civil Aviation Department issued a circular to all airlines saying the airport was open for business and the situation was calm.
Ghiyas said the last time – more than two years ago – when a state of emergency was declared, it took one to two years for tourism to recover. Total arrivals last year rose by 8 per cent compared to 4.2 per cent. In the case of China, the islands’ largest source market, arrivals in December 2017 rose by 19.7 per cent from the same 2016 month whereas it was zero growth in December 2016 versus December 2015. “One of the worries of tourists (particularly Chinese) is whether the airport would have armed guards, etc,” he added. Hotel managers also said they were watching the situation.
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