Tourist arrivals to the Maldives grew by 2.4 percent in March compared to the same period last year, despite a continuing decline in the number of Chinese visitors.
According to monthly statistics from the tourism ministry, a total of 344,166 tourists visited the Maldives from January to March, representing an increase of 4.3 percent compared to 2015.
Despite the arrivals growth in March, the tax authority said earlier this month that government revenue fell 8.2 percent below forecasts in March partly due to tourist arrivals being 1.9 percent lower than anticipated, resulting in lower than expected tourism-related revenues.
Meanwhile, after falling -20 percent in February despite the Chinese New Year falling during the month, Chinese arrivals registered a -13.3 percent decline in March.
The number of Chinese visitors has decreased by -10.8 percent during the first three months of 2015 compared to the corresponding period last year.
However, China retained top spot as the largest source market with 79,312 visitors so far this year, representing a market share of 23 percent.
In a phenomenon that caught many industry experts by surprise, the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives had tripled from about 100,000 in 2010 to more than 350,000 in 2014.
But the annual growth in Chinese tourists declined for the first time in 2015 by -1.1.
Chinese arrivals growth fell sharply by -19.7 percent and -10.8 percent, respectively, in November and December last year compared to the same months in 2014.
The tourism ministry had attributed the decline in visitors from China, Russia, and France in 2015 to economic downturns and “other events taking place” in the countries.
Arrivals from Russia and France had declined significantly in 2015, falling 33.2 percent and 17 percent respectively.
While Russian arrivals have picked up in 2016 with a 2.3 percent growth in the first three months, arrivals from France continued to fall with a -7 percent decline.
But total arrivals from Europe – the Maldives’ traditional market – accounted for 52.3 percent of visitors from January to March this year.
After China, Germany was the second largest individual market with an 8.8 percent market share, followed by the United Kingdom (8.5 percent), Italy (7.9 percent), France (4.8 percent) and India (4.1 percent).
The UK registered a high growth rate in 2016 with 17 percent. Arrivals from Germany and Italy grew by 7.7 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.
Tourist arrivals from India have meanwhile increased 20 percent in the first three months of the year, reaching 14,171 visitors.
With tourists spending less time in the country, the occupancy rate at resorts had fallen from 81.6 percent in 2014 to 76.2 percent last year. The average duration of stay declined from 6.1 to 5.7 days.
However, after falling -4.8 percent in January, the occupancy rate at resorts have grown by 2 percent and 2.1 percent in February and March.
Industry experts had blamed the continuing decline in occupancy rate at resorts on a brief state of emergency declared in the Maldives in November. The unprecedented 30-day nationwide emergency – which was lifted just six days later – resulted in bad press and bookings cancellations, experts said.
The occupancy rate at guesthouses meanwhile continues to grow with 16.5 percent in February and 10.7 percent in March.
The government has meanwhile launched a ‘Visit Maldives Year 2016′ campaign with a target of increasing tourist arrivals to 1.5 million.
The government had missed its target of 1.4 million arrivals in 2015. The Maldives welcomed 1.2 million by the end of December, a 2.4 percent increase from 2014.