The Maldives have announced they will be reopening to tourists on July 1 – with no restrictions.
The Maldives has performed a second volte-face on its plans to reopen to tourists, deciding to scrap all testing for holidaymakers visiting the Indian Ocean archipelago.
The country’s initial plan included a 14-day minimum stay, advance visa, and virus testing both prior to departure and on arrival. Guests would also be confined to government accommodation until their test results came back.
These measures were going to prove costly: Telegraph Travel reported prices of US$100/£81 for a tourist visa, private testing costs of up to £400, and another US$100/£81 for a PCR antigen test on arrival at Malé airport.
Add to this the cost of a confirmed booking of 14 nights – according to Kuoni, a two-week package for this December could cost from £3,011 to £9,888 per person – and the Sisyphean task of sourcing a travel insurance policy that included coronavirus cover, and a holiday in the Maldives was looking more expensive than ever.
The government then backtracked. Tourism officials on June 3 told our reporter that they would offer cheaper holidays to the upmarket Indian Ocean destination, scrapping the fees proposed in their original reopening plan, along with the minimum 14-night stay.
It was maintained, however, that guests would still be expected to present a positive antibody test on arrival, conducted a maximum of two weeks before landing in the country, and other guidelines would follow.
“We are working on guidelines to ensure that our guests once again feel the ‘sunny side of life’ here,” said tourism minister Ali Waheed at the time.
Now, the latest update goes even further, with the Ministry of Tourism planning to welcome visitors next month without any restrictions: no minimum stay requirement, and, crucially, no testing.
The move is a complete 180 from previous announcements that the Maldives would aim to set itself apart as a “safe tourism” destination and a “Covid-free country” with strict testing requirements.
This could be a risky move. Of approximately 2,000 confirmed cases, there have been only eight deaths in the Maldives. With just nine to 26 confirmed cases per day since June 2, the country is in a good position to contain the virus – given this progress, inviting a wave of unrestricted tourists into the country could prove problematic.
Economic factors will have fed into this decision. Tourism represents nearly 30 per cent of GDP in the Maldives and is the source of 90 per cent of government revenue. Bringing back visitors will be a top priority, and the raft of previous measures would have no doubt deterred those interested in the Maldives stay.
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