Reopening Maldives: Safe resort licenses, testing tourists for COVID-19

Tourists are photographed wearing masks at Velana International Airport (VIA). (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

A policy to reopen the tourism industry which is at a standstill due to COVID-19 has been drafted. Named as the “Safe Tourism Guidelines”, the policy covers safe tourism resort licenses as well as the policies on testing all tourist arrivals into the country for the virus.

The policy was formed after extensive discussions with industry stakeholders by the Tourism Ministry. Sun has obtained a copy of the draft. 

Safe Tourism Resorts

The draft version of the guidelines read that the resort licenses under the policy would be issued only to resorts that meet certain requirements. 

The policy reads that licensed resorts must allocate 10 percent of the registered guest rooms for isolation purposes.

Resorts must allocate facilities for quarantining staff equivalent to 10% of the staff population and the guest service staff should also be trained in the use of PPE.

Staff should also be trained on social distancing procedures and disinfection procedures. 

Emergency procedures must also be put in place to deal with suspected cases of COVID-19 including isolation procedures for which all staff must be trained. Adequate stock of medically certified PPE should also be maintained by the resort. 

It is also a requirement under the policy for licensed resorts to have a resident doctor and a nurse certified by the relevant licensing bodies. A licensing fee of USD 50,000 is applicable for the issuance of a safe tourism license.

Photo shows a tourist at Velana International Airport (VIA). (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Domestic Transportation

Transport arrangements under the policy for safe tourism must utilize pre-approved vessels or aircraft cleared for all health & safety standards. Police are to ensure that the standards are followed on all seagoing vessels.

According to the police, alternate seats must be left vacant on seagoing vessels and aircraft when transporting passengers. 

Masks and sanitizing are to be compulsory before boarding transfer vessel or aircraft and a safe distance of 1 meter must be maintained during communication at all times. Disinfection and decontamination procedures are also to be conducted on vessels after passengers disembark.

On Arrival

Upon arrival at the resort, tourists are to be escorted directly to their rooms. 

Luggage should be handled safely with gloves ensuring minimal contact with staff while receiving staff are to be equipped with masks, gloves, and sanitizers. 

Only a minimum number of staff shall be involved in receiving tourists and a safe distance of 1 meter shall be maintained between tourists and staff at all times. 

The tourists should also be notified that they are to remain in their rooms until the results of their on-arrival PCR test results are received.

Superyachts and private jets

Due to COVID-19 the massive tourism industry of the Maldives is at a complete standstill. The income obtained from the industry when compared to other years will be staggeringly low this year, according to projections. 

When the virus hit the country. Most resorts were forced to close up shop, and send their employees on holiday. Some employees even faced wage cuts, no pay leaves, and even dismissals.

Under the draft policy of the Tourism Ministry for safe tourism, the Maldives will be open for superyachts and private jets by next month. A landing fee of USD 50,000 will have to be paid by any private jets while an entry fee of USD 10,000 will be required from any superyachts.

The country will also be open to commercial flights by July, according to the draft policy. 

Private jets parked on the tarmac of Velana International Airport. The airport broke the record for air traffic movements on January 5, 2019 with 811 recorded movements. (Photo/MACL)

The Maldives has stopped issuing an on-arrival visa by the end of March. The newly formed guideline, strictly stipulates that tourists must test for COVID-19 seven days prior to their arrival. Tourists will be required to present a negative PCR or a positive Anti Body Test of their samples upon arrival to gain access to the country.

The special visa issued under the safe tourism guidelines will be granted for tourists committing to a minimum stay of 14 nights in the country and has confirmed booking in a tourist facility a license. The tourist must also have valid travel insurance with medical coverage for the entire duration of stay. A special tourist visa fee of USD 100 for arrivals will be applicable.

Airport Procedures

The guidelines also stipulated the procedure for airport arrivals.

The tourists’ first entry place should have processes in place to check temperature and look out for guests with respiratory symptoms such as a cough or a runny nose or shortness of breath upon arrival.

A PCR test is also to be done on arrival for a fee of USD 100 per test. Disinfection procedures must also be put in place for body, luggage, and travel documents, according to the guidelines.

The tourists, passengers and airport staff are also to maintain a minimum distance of 1 meter at all times and will be required to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer frequently at the airport.

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed met with industry stakeholders last night to present the safe tourism guideline. The Minister has requested for the opinion of stakeholders regarding the guidelines to recommence the industry once again.