The impact of COVID-19 on the Maldives began in early February with the suspension of flights between the Maldives and mainland China, followed by bans on the entry of travellers from other affected countries in March and most importantly, national lockdown on 17 April. As countries across the globe locked down, inbound arrivals to the Maldives plummeted, as key source markets such as China, India, France, Italy, Spain, the UK and parts of Germany were severely affected by COVID-19.
On 3 February 2020, the Maldives suspended travel to and from mainland China, except its own citizens, who were placed under quarantine upon return. On 3 March, there was an entry ban for travellers from South Korean cities affected by COVID-19.
COVID-19 had a negative impact on airlines in the Maldives even before lockdown, due to the introduction of bans on travel from severely affected countries. The four-month suspension of flights into the Maldives left airlines unable to capitalise on the expansion of Velana International Airport.
Travel intermediaries were severely challenged by COVID-19, as home seclusion prevented people from visiting bricks and mortar travel agencies and cut the demand for long-haul holidays. Online travel intermediaries also suffered from the drop in demand, although they are becoming more popular as more transactions move online due to COVID-19, as well as improved safety for online payments.
COVID-19 is likely to continue to affect travel to the Maldives in 2021-2022; the exact course of the pandemic is still unknown and economic uncertainty will create an adverse climate for travel and tourism. However, for those who continue to travel, the Maldives’ unique geography may provide an advantage over other long-haul destinations, since its allows for greater privacy and separation from other tourists, which may offer reassurance about any risks related to COVID-19.
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