Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, travel and tourism had become one of the most thriving businesses in a vast percentage of countries in the world. It accounted for 10% of global GDP, representing more than 320 million hospitality-related jobs worldwide.
Tourism-dependent countries such as resort islands, tropical destinations and traditional getaways got hard-hit earlier and deeper than other economies by the impacts of the crisis.
In a world with millions of planes grounded and health authorities begging citizens to stay away from other people, contact-intensive services key to tourism were or have been, a recipe for economic disaster.
Surprisingly, not all nations have sunk into the oceans of despair.
Maldives, the island country in the north-central Indian Ocean made up of 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks, has managed to be the biggest tourism success story in 2020 according to a recent CNN report.
Last year, the country welcomed a total of 555,494 visitors (32% of their regular arrivals), which is truly a success amidst the worse pandemic seen in a century.
How would they do it?
Thoyyib Mohamed, the managing director of the Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation, the country’s national tourism authority has a theory.
“Our biggest advantage is the unique geographical features of Maldives” said Mohamed. That is certainly true, but it does not explain why they could and other countries couldn’t.
Last year, Maldives reopened with no restrictions regarding testing, quarantine or country of departure, but quickly implemented strict restrictions to ensure safety.
Nowadays, not a single traveler can enter on leave the country if they test positive for COVID-19. Tests must be taken up to 72 hours prior to arrival. Once in the resort, visitors must take another on-site test to be sure. This way, tourists can hang out with other COVID-19 free people.
Visas are always a hassle. Regardless of the type of visas travelers need to acquire, filling forms, attaching extra documents and paying fees before getting approved is a long process nobody enjoys doing. Well, Maldives has decided to grant visas for all foreing nationals upon arrival. Problem solved.
The islands are well-known for their luxurious resorts. At Kudadoo Island, for example, visitors can enjoy unlimited spa treatments, water sports, international cuisine and drinks.
On the Six Senses Lanny and Niyama Private islands travelers can enjoy the most beautiful accommodations with crystal-bottom pools and other Instagram-worthy details.
Together with the number of islands and resorts that allow “spreading people on different islands”, the weather also works in their favor. With temperatures ranging from 25-30°c / 77-104°f all year-round plus 8 hours of sunshine, snowbirds can’t help but see it as a perfect winter getaway.
So for now, Maldives sets a good example for other countries eager to follow suit.