Fifty years ago, an Italian travel enthusiast, George Corbin visited the Maldives after crossing many hurdles. Some believed the little nation in the Indian Ocean was not worth visiting and though his colleagues and friends advised against it, Corbin took a chance. Today, the Maldives is marking the golden jubilee of an industry people believed would not have flourished all those years ago.
Not knowing how to travel to the Maldives, Corbin visited the closest embassy, the Maldives Embassy in Sri Lanka, where he was introduced to the then junior employee at the embassy, the current Minister of Health Ahmed Naseem. Since there were no air connections, Naseem and Corbin travelled to the Maldives on a cargo ship.
The arrival of Corbin marked the beginning of tourism in the Maldives. Reminiscing on the beginnings of tourism, a key pioneer of tourism in the Maldives, Mohamed Umar Manik said that meeting Corbin made him realise that the Maldives is a place where tourism can be developed. At that time, Corbin was seeking uninhabited islands where he could bring Italians to swim and fish. He said the enthusiasm and faith of Corbin gave encouragement to himself, Naseem, and Hussain Afeef.
Manik recalled not having any services such as banks, airports, or telephones back in the day, adding that only hand radios or Morse code were used to contact Colombo, Sri Lanka. He said many people did not believe that tourism could be expanded in the Maldives due to the natural formation and the lack of development of resources. Even experts from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said that tourism would never succeed because there were no facilities and no infrastructure, he added.
Meanwhile, Cobin returned home and the first group of tourists arrived on February 16, 1972, under the leadership of Umar Manik, Afeef and Naseem. The group of tourists arrived from Milan, Italy chartering a flight from Air Ceylon. A total of 22 tourists arrived on the maiden trip. They came and stayed at Maagiri, Lux Hood and Kaneeru Villa. They stayed in the Maldives for 12 days.
When the first group of tourists arrived in the Maldives, Naseem was abroad on a government trip. However, Naseem described the situation in which they had to serve tourists. He said that Afeef with others ran from one house to the other serving the tourists, taking cutlery from one house to the other when one team is finished, adding the courage they showed back in the day is an incomparable example.
The first group of tourists included some Italian journalists. They went back home and wrote about their experiences in the newspapers which is how most people came to know of the Maldives. After the trip, discussions to develop a resort in the Maldives commenced.
Speaking on a programme aired on PSM News, Mohamed Moosa said many challenges were faced by the industry over the years. He said he used to supply vegetables and other products to the resorts for Afeef.
When the first group of tourists arrived in the Maldives, Afeef said there were no modern facilities. However, they loved the experience which ensured the trust of foreign investors in the Maldives. The first resort in the country opened on October 3, 1972, in Vihamanaafushi, as Kurumba Village or Kurumba Maldives as it is known now. Kurumba Maldives is a 30-room resort with a bed capacity of 60.
Today, 50 years later, the Maldives has 170 resorts, 866 hotels and guesthouses, and 154 liveaboards registered in the Maldives which brings the total bed capacity to 59,601. Today, the Maldives is known to everyone and tourism has flourished with the passion, determination and hard work of its young and energetic Maldivian founders. Just as Corbin fell in love with the palm trees, turquoise sea and white sandy beaches, the Maldives has made it to the bucket list of everyone
Corbin said the Maldives are world known and among the best destinations, getting visitors of different nationalities and regions, thus being a very safe haven.
Cruise ships carry over 1,200 tourists to Addu
Passengers on the two cruise ships – German-registered Athenia and Australian-registered Coral Expedition – disembarked at Feydhoo district of Addu on Wednesday morning. Both ships transited in Addu before departing from Male’.
Addu councilman Mohamed Faisal told Sun that passengers from the cruise ships visited three resorts in Addu; Equator Village, South Palm Resort, and Canareef Resort. They also visited Maradhoo and Maradhoo-Feydhoo districts.
Councilwoman Aminath Salma said the passengers visited various tourist attractions in the city on a bus tour, including the Addu Nature Park and guesthouses.
Both cruise ships departed from A addu around 06:30 pm.
According to Maldives Association of Yacht Agents (MAYA), they expect at least nine cruise ships to visit Maldives this year, carrying over 12,000 tourists.
China becomes 9th biggest tourist market of the Maldives
Since the Maldives opened its borders to the Chinese tourism market, the Asian powerhouse has become one of the 10 best foreign markets so far this year.
After the global pandemic and its subsequent consequences, after 3 years, direct flights to China began on January 18.
As per the statistics provided by the tourism ministry, 2,239 tourists have visited the Maldives from China up till today, which makes China the 9th country from which most tourists have visited.
The tourism minister Dr Abdulla Mausoom shared his thoughts regarding this on Twitter saying that it’s very heartwarming to see so many tourists visit the Maldives from China.
The latest statistics provided by the tourism ministry show that till last Saturday 115.177 tourists have visited the Maldives. The 5 countries from where most tourists have visited the Maldives this year are Russia, Italy, India, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
This spike in tourist visits from China stems from the recommencement of direct flights from China to the Maldives by Beijing Capital Airlines. The Chinese airline will have 4 scheduled flights every week till February 22.
Beijing Capital Airlines are using A330-300 model aircraft, which seats 306 passengers.
China was the number one tourist market for the Maldives pre-pandemic. When looking at the history of Chinese tourists, the Maldives became a popular tourist destination for the people of China back in 2010.
With the leniency to travel provided by Xi Jinping after being elected president in 2013, the Chinese populace looked to Maldives as their most favourable holiday getaway, and so since 2013, the number of Chinese tourists has increased year by year.
The Maldives was heavily advertised to the Chinese market by MMPRC and other tourism industry professionals at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. According to experts, this was the event that really opened up the Chinese market to the Maldives.
China recommences direct flights to Maldives
Direct flights from China to the Maldives have recommenced after almost three years.
A flight from Beijing Capital Airlines touched down in the Maldives today around noon. The airline has scheduled four flights every week to the Maldives till February 22.
More tourists will arrive in the Maldives from the Chinese market along with other airlines after this first one. These airlines include China Eastern Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines, both to commence operations this month.
Tourism Minister Dr Abdulla Mausoom has previously stated that with the recommencement of flights from China, more than an estimated 100,000 tourists will visit the Maldives from the Chinese market. The number of Chinese tourists to visit Maldives last year was 12,000.
“The picture still isn’t very clear. But as they are a very populous country, and if a resonable number of them visit, we expect around 100,000 arrivals from the Chinese market,” Dr Mausoom said.
He further said that he thinks with the cooperation of the public, that number can grow even higher and that this will bring very positive changes to the Maldivian economy.
Speaking on this momentous occasion, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of MMPRC, Mr Thoyyib Mohamed, stated that today marks a bright beginning in a new chapter in welcoming outbound tourists from China. “We are extremely pleased to be welcoming flights from China to the Maldives again. China had been our key source market for some years prior to the onset of the pandemic, and we are looking forward to Chinese travellers topping our arrival charts again.”
China has been one of the top source markets for tourist arrivals to Maldives over the last six years. As per the statistics collected by the tourism ministry, China has been the tourism market leader for the Maldives since 2010 until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Tourist visits from China have dwindled since 2020, due to the lockdown in China. Maldives expects the numbers to increase this year with the reopening of the borders.
The Chinese market consistently topped the arrival charts to the Maldives prior to 2020, when the nation closed for approximately three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019, China was the top source market with 284,029 arrivals (16.7%). This number fell greatly in 2020, to 6th place with 34,245 arrivals (6.2%), and fell even further over the next two years.
Maldives expects to reach 1.8 million tourist arrivals this year – which is higher than the record 1.7 million arrivals back in 2019.
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