A resort employee loads tourist luggage into speedboats. Dhauru Photo/Muzayyin Nazim

Maldives tourism braces for worst off-season in years

According to some traders, with the off-season, the blackmarket rate of USD will likely reach MVR 18.

29 May 2023

By Ahmed Naif

A quick glance at the arrival figures released by the tourism ministry on Saturday shows that the tourism sector has recently taken a hit, with a significant decline in the number of tourists visiting the country in May. 

  • As of Wednesday, 94,604 tourists arrived in May; 100,230 arrivals recorded during the same period last year

  • 5.7% decline in tourist arrivals in May 

  • Average daily arrivals have dropped from 5,000 to 3,000 

Tourism in the country slows down with the onset of summer in Europe always. Tourist arrivals drop, as the off-season of tourism in the Maldives begins. However, a boom in arrivals from China in the five years leading to the Covid-19 pandemic meant the Maldives never really had an off-season.

Massive drop in arrivals expected for June-July

This year's arrival trends for off-season has raised concerns among the tourism fraternity. According to a senior marketing official working at a high-end resort in the Maldives, this will be the worst off-season in recent years. Going by the booking numbers, he expects a sharp drop in tourist arrivals in June and July. 

"This June, July will be one of the toughest days in our tourism industry in recent times," he said, requesting anonymity.

Another tourism industry expert said that unlike in the past, the increase in the number of tourist beds coupled with the drop in arrivals will hit revenues of tourism establishments, especially for the resort segment.

According to a person who runs one of the country's largest travel agencies, the reasons for the decline in tourist arrivals this year are

  • High global air fares

  • Crises in major European economies

  • Reduced spending on entertainment and leisure activities such as travel by European travellers

All of tourism cited as a solution:

  • Providing incentives such as lower fees and charges for airlines to travel to the Maldives

  • Attracting more airlines from non-European countries during the off-season 

"Instead of giving incentives to airlines, we are seeing quite the opposition. Fees charged at the airport are being increased," said a tourism expert.

Dollar rate in blackmarket to rise

With the off-season, the country's foreign exchange receipts are expected to start declining drastically. In response, the exchange rate of USD in the blackmarket is already on the rise.

  • In the black market, 1 USD is trading at MVR 17.55 on Monday

  • Earlier, it was at MVR 17.20

  • According to some traders, with the off-season, the blackmarket rate of USD will likely reach MVR 18