The Maldives has suffered significantly due to the border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, through a loyalty programme and their vaccination-vacation concept, the country hopes to rejuvenate its tourism industry.
The Maldives – a paradise on earth that needs no introduction. This small, picturesque country made up of several islands mainly developed for tourists, holidaymakers and famously, honeymooners, has seen a considerable dip in revenue since border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the Maldives will soon offer tourists vaccinations on arrival as part of the country’s three-pointed initiative to revitalise its struggling tourism industry.
An introduction to the Maldivian economy
In 2009, 42.7% of the local Maldivian population were living on less than $5.50USD a day. In a bid to restabilise the country’s economy, investments and funding by both government and private funders were introduced at a multi-level and multi-industry developments have been made to the little Islands’ in recent years, including improvements to the education and healthcare sectors.
This in turn salvaged the unemployment crisis and restabilised the local economy. Within seven years, the poverty rate decreased to 3.4% and the exquisite country now boasts a close to 100% literacy rate and a life year expectancy of more than 78 years old, according to the Borgan Project.
It is through these huge economic developments; the Maldives has attained the status of an ‘upper-middle-income’ country. With tourism accounting for 21% of the Maldives GDP in 2019 (pre-COVID), it is fair to say that the country depends on the tourism industry greatly.
However, what happens to a country like the Maldives with a pandemic and the untimely occurrence of COVID-19, global travel restrictions and the tourism industry globally shutting down is devastating to its economy.
The Maldives began experiencing the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic early on already in March 2020. After the tourism industry abruptly halted, the border was initially closed until mid-July 2020. Due to the decline in tourism in 2020, gross domestic product dropped to 28%, and the poverty rate increased to 7.2%.
The “3 V” strategy: visit, vaccinate, vacation – How the Maldives is implementing the vaccination vacation to promote tourism
Despite the reopening of travel to the country, only some 18,000 travelers visited the country, unlike the monthly 140 000 visitors pre-COVID. According to Al-Jazeera, a leading global news agency, the Maldivian government pulled out “all the stops” to prompt travelers back into the country for tourism.
These included a quick vaccination roll out for locals, excess stocking up on hospital supplies, safeguarding tourists through the promotion of accessible healthcare and the introduction of a “point” system so that tourists gain value-for-money during their travels.
Described as a “more convenient” way of traveling to the country, the 3V strategy emphasises “visit, vaccinate, and vacation” to attract visitors, Abdulla Mausoom, Tourism Minister of the Maldives, told CNBC.
How does the strategy work?
The country has already fully vaccinated 58% of its own population and with further vaccines coming through via the COVAX system with the World Health Organisation and other donated viles from neighbouring countries like India, the Maldives hopes to be able to secure enough vaccines to fully immunise its population and then vaccinate on arrival, without quarantine any visitors.
The strategy itself is as straightforward as it sounds. To further their bid for more tourist visits, the Maldivian Department of Tourism has also announced the ‘Border Miles’ programme, established to entice tourists to visit more than once. Working on a point system, the programme will award visitors points per entry and in turn, visitors can find themselves enjoying posh holidays at a lower cost.