Maldives welcomes direct China arrivals after three-year hiatus

The Maldives welcomed the first direct Chinese arrivals after a three-year hiatus.

China closed down its borders in 2020 following the global Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. The country grounded all of its outbound aviation operations, resulting in a near-complete drop in tourist arrivals from the country to the Maldives. The Asian giant has reopened for international travel after three years.

On Wednesday, January 18, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) held a “vibrant ceremony” to mark the arrival of Beijing Capital Airline’s flight number JD455 carrying 198 travelers from the Beijing Daxing International Airport. This is the first direct flight from China to the Maldives since the borders reopened.

The arriving guests were greeted with traditional boduberu and special gift packs were conferred to them as well. The celebratory event was attended by a high-level delegation that included ministers, ambassadors, and other senior officials from the governments of both China and the Maldives.

“We are extremely pleased to be welcoming from China to the Maldives again. China had been our key source market for some years prior to the onset of the pandemic, and we are looking forward to Chinese travelers topping our arrival charts again”.

— Thoyyib Mohamed, CEO and Managing Director, MMPRC

In late December 2022, the Chinese ambassador to the Maldives Wang Lixin claimed the Maldives was one of the popular tropical island destinations among Chinese travelers. She said the Chinese arrivals to the Maldives will boost with the border reopening.

Although the arrival count may not match the pre-pandemic levels at the commencement date, the arrival figures will remain significant, Lixin added.

Earlier in January 2023, the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) revealed three Chinese airlines were set to resume their direct flights once more, which included Hong Kong Airlines, Chinese Eastern Airlines, and Beijing Capital.

Hong Kong Airlines acquired slots from January 1 through the end of March and Beijing Capital will operate four charter flights from January 18 to February 22.

China is one of the strongest source markets in the Maldives. The country had consistently topped arrival charts before 2020. In 2019, the Ministry of Tourism reported a total of 284,029 annual arrivals from the country which was 16.7% of that year’s total tourist arrivals.

The Maldives achieved its 1.6 million tourist arrival target in 2022, and the government announced a new 1.8 million arrival target for 2023. The government projects annual tourist arrival count will noticeably boost with the resumption of Chinese tourist market to the Maldives.

Earlier, the Maldives Minister of Tourism Dr. Abdulla Mausoom estimated a 10% increment in annual tourist arrivals when China resumes its travel to the Maldives.