Some 57 percent of Maldivians travel overseas for medical purposes while 32 percent travel for vacation, according to the Maldives Monetary Authority’s (MMA) ‘Maldivians Traveling Abroad Survey’ released today.
The central bank conducted the survey in December 2014 to “analyse the outbound travel patterns of Maldivians in terms of travel destination, purpose of visit, and expenditure.”
Enumerators interviewed 3,529 returning Maldivians passengers at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, which represents 55 percent of all Maldivians returning from overseas during the one-week survey period.
“The most popular destinations for Maldivians during 2014 were India and Sri Lanka, with 41 percent and 38 percent, respectively,” the survey found.
Malaysia accounted for eight percent of travellers, followed by Singapore and Thailand, which together accounted for six percent.
Return airfare to India and Sri Lanka costs US$307 and US$205 per person, respectively, while the cost of a return ticket to Malaysia was about US$414. The cost of airfare to Thailand and Singapore was US$512 and US$720, respectively.
India was the most popular destination for medical travellers (61 percent), followed by Sri Lanka (34 percent),Thailand (two percent), Malaysia (one percent), and Singapore (one percent).
The average duration of a visit to India for medical purposes was 16 days while the average expenditure for such trips was US$737 per person. A trip to Sri Lanka to seek medical treatment costs about US$716 per person with an average duration of stay of around 13 days.
In contrast, the cost of a trip to Thailand and Singapore for medical purposes was US$1,472 and US$2,149, respectively.
The survey found that Maldivians who travelled for education and training purposes accounted for just three percent of the respondents.
The most popular holiday destination for Maldivians was Sri Lanka with 48 percent of holidaymakers visiting the neighbouring country and spending 11 days on average.
A Maldivian spends on average US$631 in Sri Lanka for their vacation.
Malaysia was the second most popular destination with 19 percent of holidaymakers traveling to the southeast Asian country for vacation. The average duration of stay in Malaysia was 14 days while expenditure per trip was US$999.
India was the destination of choice for 14 percent of holidaymakers who returned during the survey period. Vacationers spent about 15 days in India and spent US$690 per person during the trip.
Travellers to Thailand and Singapore collectively accounted for 10 percent of holidaymakers with an average duration of stay of 10 days.
“The expenditure pattern for vacation travellers revealed that Maldivians traveling to Thailand and Singapore spends around US$1,020 and US$2,300 per person per trip respectively, which are the highest among the top five destinations for vacation,” the survey found.
The MMA noted that the survey addresses “the need for collecting accurate statistics required for the compilation of travel expenses of the balance of payments statistics.”
The information gathered for the survey has “several limitations,” the central bank cautioned, as the survey period coincided with the school holidays, during which “the proportion of Maldivians traveling for medical purposes and vacation tends to be higher than the rest.”
Students and businessmen were significantly underrepresented as a result, the report stated, adding that the MMA plans to conduct surveys for longer periods during the peak and off-peak seasons.
Travel patterns for students may vary as their academic calendars do not coincide with that of the Maldives whilst businessmen travel throughout the year.