18 January 2023- Tourists from China start arriving in Maldives after COVID-19. Dhauru Photo

Chinese tourist numbers less than expected: Why?

"It's cheaper to go to competing destinations with the Maldives, so the Chinese prefer them to the Maldives. So, the interest in the country is low in terms of

7 March 2023

By Ahmed Naif

The resumption of direct flights between China and the Maldives with the new year and increasing tourist arrivals was a big hope for tourism in the Maldives. Tourism minister Dr Abdulla Mausoom as well as everyone else, had anticipated that Chinese tourists would come and fill up the country.

It has been more than a month since Chinese tourists started arriving, but the numbers do not meet expectations. The data show a far worse picture than the larger expectation. 

Chinese tourist statistics:

  • 10,427 - Total arrivals so far

  • 212 - Average daily arrivals

  • 2.9% – China's share of tourist arrivals so far

  • China has the eighth highest number of tourist arrivals to the country 

Mohamed Shaz Waleed, Managing Director of Resort Life, a travel agency that brings tourists to the Maldives, said that the daily arrival of 212 tourists from China to the Maldives is very small from such a large market.

According to Shaz, there is not much hope from the Chinese market yet.

"It is possible that this was due to political reasons. The fact that Chinese government agencies did not push so much for people to come to the country could be a reason for this," he said.

"Everyone is saying that there is no signifying growth from the Chinese market. So we are not focusing on China either."

Another tourism expert, who did not wish to be named, said there were economic reasons why Chinese tourist numbers were dwindling. He said the low number of flights between China and other countries has led to higher travel costs for Chinese people around the world. He said the cost of travelling to the Maldives is higher for Chinese tourists as compared to similar destinations to the Maldives. That's why Chinese tourists have increased their travel to destinations like Thailand and Indonesia, he said.

"It's cheaper to go to competing destinations with the Maldives, so the Chinese prefer them to the Maldives. So, the interest in the country is low in terms of prices," he said.

In addition, he said, china's post-Covid economy is yet to fully recover, resulting in fewer people travelling out of the country. Instead, he said, there has been an increase in the number of people travelling to domestic destinations in China.

"A lot of people who had to adhere to the Chinese lockdown policy adopted have been affected. So, most people are looking to go to domestic destinations and take a low-cost vacation," said the tourism industry veteran.

Tourism experts also stress the need to strengthen marketing campaigns specific to China. They believe the country needs to be promoted back to the Chinese market as the Chinese economy begins to grow this year.

"We have to start working from zero after Covid. That work has to be done. Otherwise, it will be difficult to pick China up," said another industry expert.

According to tourism ministry data, the number of tourist arrivals till March 1 was 24.7% higher than the same period last year.

  • A total of 3,56,538 tourists arrived 

  • On an average, 6,125 people come to the country every day

  • Tourists spend an average of 7.8 nights in Maldives

According to statistics, there has been no change in the number of countries where most tourists arrive to the Maldives. The highest number of tourist arrivals this year are from Russia, India, the UK, Italy and Germany. 

Top five markets: 

  • Russia - 45,707

  • India - 38,982

  • Uk - 33,178

  • Italy - 32,542

  • Germany - 23,257

Tourism industry insiders believe that these markets are unlikely to see a major change this year.