Searches related to vacationing in the Maldives doubled on major Chinese travel platforms on Friday (17 February), the same day that a Sino-Maldives mutual visa-waiver arrangement came into force, Chinese newspaper Global Times reported.
The visa exemption agreement signed in February last year grants Chinese citizens a free 30-day on-arrival visa for holidays, business purposes, family visits or transits.
Before noon on Friday, searches for hotels in the Maldives on online travel agency Qunar.com rose 126% compared to the same period on the previous day. Searches for resorts located in the North Malé Atoll in particular increased threefold, a spokesperson of Qunar.com told the Global Times.
“The spokesperson noted that reservation for Maldives hotels in February has doubled so far compared with January, and is expected to rise further as Chinese travelers’ enthusiasm was further spurred by the implementation of the visa waiver policy,” the paper reported.
Views on Maldives as a travel destination was up 200% on Trip.com Group in half an hour after the visa exemption deal was announced.
“Data from Trip.com also showed that bookings for Maldives-related products have increased by 50 percent month-on-month from February 6. Maldives was also among the top five outbound travel destinations on the platform in terms of reservation for group tour and self-guided tour products,” the Global Times added, citing a statement Trip.com.
According to the Chinese embassy in Malé, Chinese travel agencies and online travel operators were authorised to resume “pilot outbound group tours for Chinese citizens” with effect on 6 February. The Maldives was among the first group of countries cleared for group tours by the Chinese government.
Chinese tourists returned to the Maldives last month after a nearly three-year hiatus. The first direct flight from China since 2020 arrived on 18 January, shortly after the country ended Covid-19 travel restrictions. The warm welcome accorded to the first group of Chinese tourists received widespread coverage in Chinese media.
A week later, China was back among the top 10 source markets for tourists to the Maldives. Direct flights have since resumed from Beijing and Shanghai.
China was the single largest source market before the pandemic with 284,029 holidaymakers in 2019, representing a 17% market share.
The Maldives welcomed 8,015 Chinese tourists as of 15 February.