The island nation’s travel receipts rose by 104.5%, thanks to a ‘strong rebound’ in tourist arrivals from India and Russia
Call it the triumph of soft power or Stimulus Maitri, one South Asian country is silently thankful to Indians’ indefatigable wanderlust which has lifted its recovery prospects from the pandemic’s disastrous aftermath, even as the Chinese have gone virtually missing in action.
After COVID-19 hammered a 33.2% contraction on the Maldives’ tourism-dependent economy in 2020, the country’s growth prospects for this calendar year have seen the biggest upgrades from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) — at least five percentage points — thanks to Indian hodophiles.
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Last week, the World Bank raised its 2021 growth projection for the Maldives from 17.1% to 22.3%. The ADB had pegged 2020’s GDP fall for the Maldives at 32% and expected it to rebound with a 13% uptick this year but has now raised growth hopes to 18%.
The Maldives’ travel receipts rose by 104.5% in the first half of the year, which the ADB has attributed to a ‘strong rebound’ in tourist arrivals from India and Russia even as traditionally large visitor sources like China and Europe remained wary.
Tourist arrivals had crossed half a million, rising 33.4% from 2020 levels, boosted by very large increases in visitors from the Russian Federation and India who now have a combined share of 42% in wayfarers welcomed by the Maldives’, from just 16.7% a year ago, it noted.
Travel buffs from Europe now account for lesser traffic at 41.5% of arrivals, ‘somewhat below their 44.1% share of the 1.7 million peak arrivals in 2019 before the pandemic’, the ADB has pointed out in its latest development outlook update. Arrivals from the People’s Republic of China, which held a major 16.7% market share in 2019, only accounted for 0.1% of total tourists between January and June this year.
The Maldives’ unique appeal of a “one island, one resort” model that helps assuage concerns about the risks of COVID-19 infections has played no small part in its attractiveness as a go-to destination for travel-starved wanderers, while other tourism-driven economies like Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are yet to see a recovery. The Bank expects the Maldives to cross the one million tourists’ mark as vaccination efforts improve and travel curbs are gradually lifted.
“Among South Asian countries, Maldives has had the most robust recovery in tourism. Visitor arrivals to the country recovered to over 60% of the pre-pandemic level by March,” the World Bank has noted in its latest report on the South Asia’s economy, adding that the surges in COVID-19 across countries, including India, did dampen that recovery ‘reflecting the sensitivity of tourism to fresh COVID-19 outbreaks’.
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