After a nearly three-year hiatus, the first direct flight from China since 2020 arrived on Wednesday (18 January), carrying the first batch of Chinese tourists after the country ended Covid-19 travel restrictions earlier this month.
At a ceremony featuring a traditional boduberu performance, the tourists were greeted with flowers and a gift pack as they disembarked. The high-level welcome delegation included Tourism Minister Dr Abdulla Mausoom and Chinese Ambassador Wang Lixin.
“We are extremely pleased to be welcoming flights from China to the Maldives again. China had been our key source market for some years prior to the onset of the pandemic, and we are looking forward to Chinese travellers topping our arrival charts again,” said Thoyyib Mohamed, CEO of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.
China was the largest source market before the pandemic with 284,029 holidaymakers in 2019, representing a 17% market share.
The JD455 flight from Beijing Daxing International Airport was the first direct connection between China and the Maldives since the border closures in early 2020. After reopening borders, China no longer requires quarantines for returning travellers.
The MMPRC continued destination marketing activities in China despite the global pandemic, including 14 activities in 2020 and eight activities with a total reach of 10.2 million in 2021. The five activities conducted in 2022 reached 14.7 million prospective visitors in the Chinese market, “to keep the destination on top of Chinese travellers minds when borders reopen.”
China was the world’s largest outbound travel market in 2019 with US$255 billion annual global spending by Chinese tourists. The lifting of travel restrictions spurred a surge in bookings as Asia’s tourist hotspots prepared for a boom and airlines ramped up capacity, Reuters reported.