Tourist arrivals grew by 2.4 percent in 2015, reaching a total of 1.2 million but falling short of the government’s target of 1.5 million visitors.
Arrivals in December, the beginning of the Maldivian tourism industry’s peak season, also increased by 15 percent compared to the same period in 2014, according to statistics from the tourism ministry.
A total of 119,255 tourists visited the Maldives last month.
But with tourists spending less time in the country, the occupancy rate at resorts fell 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.
In contrast to resorts and hotels, guesthouse occupancy rose to an average of 23.7 percent, up 5.5 percent from the previous year.
Industry experts are blaming 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 tax authority said revenue collection for December fell well below forecasts due to the slowdown in the tourism sector.
China retained top spot as the largest source market for tourists to the Maldives last year. A total of 359,514 Chinese tourists visited the Maldives last year, representing a market share of 29.1 percent.
However, the number of Chinese arrivals declined by 1.1 percent compared to 2014. Chinese arrivals growth fell sharply by 19.7 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively, in November and December compared to the same periods in 2014.
After China, Germany was the second largest market in 2015 with an 8.5 percent market share, followed by the United Kingdom (7.5 percent), Italy (5.3 percent), and India (4.2 percent).
Arrivals from Germany and the UK grew by 6.9 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively, whilst Italian arrivals registered a growth of 13.4 percent compared to the previous year. Indian arrivals grew by 14.9 percent.
European tourists accounted for 53.7 percent of arrivals in December.
In 2015, arrivals from Asia Pacific countries accounted for 48.6 percent compared to 43.4 percent for arrivals from European markets.
Arrivals from Russia and France meanwhile registered significant declines in 2015, falling 33.2 percent and 17 percent respectively.
The tourism ministry attributed the decline in visitors from China, Russia, and France to economic downturns and “other events taking place” in the countries.
According to the tourism ministry, the number of registered tourist establishments stood at 616 at the end of 2015, including 115 resorts, 314 guesthouses, 170 safari vessels, and 17 hotels.
The government has meanwhile launched the ‘Visit Maldives Year 2016′ campaign with a target of increasing tourist arrivals to 1.5 million this year. As part of the campaign, the government is planning to conduct various national and international activities to strengthen the Maldives’ brand and market the the country as an exclusive destination.
The campaign kicked off with a two-day New Year music festival in Malé featuring popular local artists and Pakistani singer Atif Aslam.
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