Chinese tourist arrivals have shown signs of recovery with a 3.5 percent increase in April 2012 compared to the same period last year, after a massive 34.8 percent decline was recorded in February.
“The Chinese market performed well due to resuming of charter airlines with more frequency and flights from additional cities and strong demand for Maldives. Tour operators’ forecast phenomenal growth in June and July,” observed the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
Figures released by the MMPRC show 10,523 Chinese arrivals during April, still making it the country’s largest market, but only narrowly eclipsing Germany’s 10,145 arrivals.
That 8.1 percent increase in German visitors places the country above the Maldives’ former mainstay market of the UK, which was badly affected by the 2008 economic recession. UK arrivals plunged 20 percent in April this year to 8,934 visitors, compared to 2011.
In its April report, the MMPRC speculated that the UK market would continue to shrink throughout 2012 on the back of a 14.3 percent drop in arrivals so far this year.
Italy, one of the Maldives’ first and traditionally strongest markets, recorded a huge 27 percent drop in arrivals during April compared to the same period last year.
The MMPPC said the Italian market was not expected to perform well in 2012, due significantly to the bankruptcy of major tour operators in Italy.
“The strict fiscal policies of Italian government also discouraged long haul outbound tourism,” the MMPRC stated. “The whole of Southern Europe is not performing well due to the economic crisis. The region is going to be the most challenging region in terms of arrivals in 2012.”
The Russian market – a favourite at many resorts due to its proportionate affluence, insulation from the economic crisis in Europe and general disregard of political turmoil – grew 24.1 percent compared to April last year.
The MMPRC’s figures show declining occupancy at resorts across the country this year, as markets in the Maldives reshuffle and the country battles negative international publicity around the controversial change of power in February.
Occupancy was down 3 percent in February, 7.4 percent in March and 6.1 percent in April, compared to the corresponding months last year. Bed nights followed a similar pattern.
George Weinmann, CEO of Mega Maldives Airlines – the Maldives’ national carrier that currently flies long-haul services to major Chinese cities including Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, said the market had recovered through April-May “and we’re now back up to where were – six flights a month to each destination, 12 to Beijing. But we were supposed to reach there two months ago – our first quarter was pitiful,” he told Minivan News.
Mega Maldives halted flights to Hong Kong in February, which were restored on April 4. Flights to Beijing and Shanghai continued non-stop, Weinmann stated.
Such was the anticipated demand that Mega Maldives had taken on a second aircraft and was looking to deploy a third before the end of the year, said Weinmann, adding that such high potential demand for the destination could see the airline conceivably expand to 10 aircraft.
“We’re aiming to add two a year,” he said, expanding the carrier’s reach to developing markets for the Maldives such as Eastern Europe, Australia, South Africa and South Korea.