China’s Sichuan Airlines will commence direct flights to the Maldives in August, paving the way for more arrivals from the re-emerging top source market for tourists.
The airline plans to operate three weekly flights from Chengdu to Malé’s Velana International Airport starting from 29 August.
Local company Villa Travels will assist passengers upon their arrival, handling luggage, addressing inquiries and offering travel support as the Chinese airline’s ground handling agent at the Velana International Airport.
Earlier this month, China overtook Germany to become the fourth largest source market for tourists to the Maldives, nearly five months since Chinese tourists started returning after a nearly three-year hiatus. The first direct flight from China since early 2020 arrived on 18 January 2023, shortly after the country ended Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The Maldives welcomed 74,348 Chinese tourists by 12 July, representing a market share of 7.6%.
Two Chinese carriers, Capital Airlines and China Eastern, currently operate direct flights to the Velana International Airport. Tourism Minister Dr Abdulla Mausoom told local media in May that the main obstacle to attracting more Chinese tourists was the lack of direct flights to the Maldives,.
“Talks are underway for three connections, including Batik Air which is expected to begin flying from Malaysia in June,” he said. Jet Star will launch flights in November and the authorities hope that Korean Air would also resume flights, he added. The tourism minister expressed confidence in achieving the target of 100,000 Chinese tourists for 2023.
China was the single largest source market before the pandemic with 284,029 visitors in 2019, representing a 17% market share.