Tourism Minister says arrangements for post-lockdown arrivals are being made

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed. (Photo/NEOC)

Arrangements for private jets and chartered flights for tourist arrivals into the country after the lockdown is being made, says Tourism Minister Ali Waheed.

The Minister was speaking in a presser today when said that arrangements are being made so that these flights will be redirected to an airport other than Velana International Airport (VIA). Velana International Airport is the biggest and busiest in the country due to the high number of tourist arrivals.

The Minister said that such a move would be based on the situation of the country.

“We are analyzing an airport which has a runway of requirements and where employees do not have to go back to their islands and (work) in a quarantine period.” Says the Minister.

Photo shows a lone Maldivian aircraft on the runway tarmac of Velana International Airport on March 23, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The arrivals to these airports will have to be tested for COVID-19. The resorts where they are accommodated must also have specific requirements such as PPEs and medical services. They will only be allowed into islands after completing a specific quarantine period.

A survey regarding the standards of VIA for when it reopens has also been conducted.

“After this, how to proceed when tourists start arriving through passenger airlines according to the new normal has also been readied.” Says the Minister. This will all be finalized by the Economic Council after discussions with stakeholders. Resorts would also have at least a month to prepare.

The Minister has already estimated that the borders could be reopened in the third quarter. A plan has been formulated with the assistance and advice of doctors on which areas to focus, safety measures, and phases of reopening tourism.

He also firmly reiterated that the industry will only reopen after the virus is controlled. The mindset to reopen the industry was only because it was the single biggest source of income to the government, says the Minister who described it as the “economic fruit” of the country. What grows on the tree (tourism industry) would only benefit the citizens and what doesn’t would also negatively impact the public, says the Minister.