Maldives ‘eagerly awaiting’ return of Chinese tourists

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The Maldives has welcomed the Chinese government’s decision to end Covid-19 travel restrictions on 8 January 2023, paving the way for the return of Chinese tourists after a nearly three-year hiatus.

China was the largest source market before the pandemic with 284,029 holidaymakers in 2019, representing a 17% market share.  

“The Maldives looks forward to the resumption of flights between the two countries in the near future, and is eagerly awaiting to welcome back Chinese tourists to the Maldives,” the Maldives foreign ministry said in a statement.

As the Maldives remains a popular destination, Chinese tourists are expected to start arriving in large numbers but direct scheduled flights could take some time to arrange, China’s Ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Lixin, told newspaper Mihaaru. “China’s Eastern Airlines is already in preparation,” she added, also noting plans by national carrier Maldivian to resume direct flights.

After reopening borders, China will no longer require quarantines for returning travellers. A negative test result within 48 hours of departure will however be required from travellers to China.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives grew exponentially after the introduction of direct flights in 2010. Despite dwindling figures since peaking in 2014 with a market share of 30%, China remained the single highest supplier of tourists to the country until the pandemic struck in early 2020.

The number of Chinese tourists sharply increases during China’s “super Golden Week” early in the year – an eight-day period combining two public holidays, including the Lunar New Year. This year’s Chinese New Year falls on 22 January.

China was the world’s largest outbound travel market in 2019 with US$255 billion global spending annually by Chinese tourists. The lifting of travel restrictions has spurred a surge in bookings as Asia’s tourist hotspots prepare for a boom and airlines seek to quickly ramp up capacity, Reuters reported last week.