Minister revises expected tourist arrival figures to 120,000

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

Newly-appointed Tourism Minister Dr. Abdulla Mausoom has revised figures for the expected number of tourist arrivals to the Maldives for the remainder of 2020. 

Speaking on a program of Raajje TV, Dr. Mausoom said that the government was expecting an influx of around 120,000 tourists starting from September until the end of the year. 

The Minister stressed that the Maldives is to be designated as a safe country from the virus, which can only be done by reducing the number of cases in the country. 

“Happiness will once again cover the faces of citizens instead of the current despair, soon, if we manage to reduce the COVID-19 numbers, and airlines start operating again, by showcasing the message that the Maldives is a safe country.” Said the Minister. 

The Maldives closed off its borders due to the virus on March 27 and reopened them four months later on July 15. Prior to the lockdown, the country had received around 380,000 tourists within the first three months of the year. After the borders were officially reopened, the country welcomed just 5,177 tourists in the first month. 

The lowest expected number of tourist arrivals for the remainder of 2020 was 120,000, said the Minister who noted that the Maldives could not possibly be marketed as a safe country without reducing the number of cases. 

“We cannot give another message while the numbers are like this. We have to reduce the figures.” Said the Minister. He estimated that the country could welcome around 6,000 tourists within August.

“September, October, November, December, we can see. But we cannot see. We can make progress if the COVID-19 numbers go down. Low estimates show that 120,000 tourists will arrive within the year.” Said the Minister. 

Tourism Minister Dr. Abdulla Mausoom. (Sun File Photo/Mohamed Afrah)

He also noted that despite the virus situation, the bednights of tourists spent in the Maldives had increased. The Minister said that it was expected that guests would spend at least 14 days in the nation. He also advised the industry stakeholders to hold the market price at a steady level that does not damage the industry. 

“We estimate around 500,000 tourist arrivals (in total) for the entire year.” Said the Minister. 

The Minister also highlighted the audit report formed by the Auditor General on the expenditure of the Tourism Ministry during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

He added that he had begun taking steps in light of the report. The report had revealed multiple accounts of misconduct and violations of public accounts regulations. The report was issued on the very week that the Minister was appointed to the post. 

“I am now taking action regarding the report.” Said the Minister who did not specify on the course of action. 

The Minister said that he was hoping to model the Ministry as an example of an institution safe from the clutches of corruption.