The Maldives tourism industry has been affected by the collapse of UK tour operator Thomas Cook, Tourism Minister Ali Waheed told the press on Wednesday.
Some 804 tourists who booked holidays with the world’s oldest travel company were in the Maldives when it went into liquidation, the tourism minister said. All Thomas Cook bookings and flights were cancelled on Monday.
“To be honest, our industry is taking a hit,” he told reporters.
A “big chunk” of visitors to the Maldives come with packages from Thomas Cook and outstanding payments were owed to several resorts, he explained. The government is working closely with the industry to manage the situation and assist affected holidaymakers, some of whom have made other arrangements after the ministry offered options, Waheed said.
“Some resorts are also accommodating tourists for free,” he added.
A hotline (+9609423131 or +96072231311) was opened to report emergencies and a help desk was set up at the Velana International Airport in collaboration with Thomas Cook to arrange return journeys. Tourists who arrived after Monday were taken to the Hulhulé Island Hotel on the airport island, where tourism ministry officials have been helping to arrange accommodation, he said.
“We are working to show the Maldives as an exemplary country in hospitality and service,” Waheed said. Arrivals have declined since Monday and none was forced to return, he noted.
Asked for figures on pending payments, Waheed said the government is assessing the economic impact and gathering information on losses faced by resorts. Marketing efforts will be “redoubled” to mitigate the impact and maintain the strong growth of tourist arrivals this year ahead of the upcoming peak season, he said.
The United Kingdom is among the top markets for the Maldives with about 10,000 visitors a month. Arrivals increased by 11 percent in the first seven months of 2019.
Thomas Cook was among the leading European tour operators that contributed to the development of the Maldives as a high-end tourist destination. In 2017, the company opened its first resort in the Maldives under its Smartline brand.
The collapse of the Thomas Cook Group, including the tour operator and airline, triggered the UK’s largest-ever peacetime repatriation operation to bring back 150,000 stranded holidaymakers.
— Ministry of Tourism (@MoTmv) September 23, 2019