Tourism officials announced that they will now offer cheaper holidays to the upmarket Indian Ocean destination
The Maldives has backtracked on plans to introduce a raft of expensive Covid-19 precautions for tourists entering the country when borders reopen sometime in July.
In a dramatic U-turn, tourism officials announced that they will now offer cheaper holidays to the upmarket Indian Ocean destination, while scrapping the fees proposed in their original reopening plan. These first-draft fees included US$100/£80 visa fee (before the pandemic, a free 30-day visa on arrival was available for all British visitors), plus a US$100/£80 fee for a COVID-19 antigen test on arrival at the airport.
A statement from the Ministry of Tourism confirmed, 'We are planning to reopen our borders for visitors from July. We also want to assure our guests that they will not be charged any additional fees to enter the Maldives.'
Also, dispensed with is the suggestion that visitors would be required to stay for a minimum of 14 nights. However, the Ministry of Tourism is maintaining that guests will still be expected to present a positive antibody test on arrival, conducted a maximum of two weeks before landing in the country. It's an idea which is still subject to change but one that initially appears problematic as only people who have contracted Covid-19 will produce antibodies and scientists still don't understand how infected people build Covid antibodies, how effective they may be or how long they might last.
The Maldives has, so far, recorded 1,841 cases and five deaths as a result of Covid-19.
Speaking at a webinar organised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, tourism minister Ali Waheed promised the Maldives will be "a more affordable and safer destination", adding, "We are working on guidelines to ensure that our guests once again feel the 'sunny side of life' here."
With the bulk of the Maldives' revenue and foreign reserves coming from tourism – the Indian Ocean country welcomed 1.7 million visitors in 2019 – and no real domestic market to bolster numbers, the honeymoon favourite has been hit harder than most by the coronavirus pandemic. The government is now understandably keen to get tourism off the ground with plenty of time to spare before the December to April high season.
While the country has been closed to all international arrivals since March 27, a handful of the country's 200 coral-ringed resorts have managed to remain open, including leading eco-luxe resort Soneva Fushi, where wealthy guests were given the option to shelter in place before the borders closed.
Other hotel groups, such as Como, Fairmont, St Regis and Anantara are planning staggered reopenings over the coming months, with most confident they will be fully operational by October.
New resorts are also planning on opening this year. Radisson Blu Resort Maldives, situated on whale-shaped Huruelhi island in the remote Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, which was due to open in March, is now showing rooms available from July 3. While Kagi Maldives Spa Island, an upmarket wellness-led resort located in the shimmering North Malé Atoll, will throw down the coconut welcome mat in September.