MALDIVES OPEN BORDERS
The Maldives have officially reopened to tourists from all nations.
In an online press conference, entitled “Opening of Maldives for tourists and the way forward”, Thoyyib Mohamed, Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, announced that the first post Covid-19 international flight had arrived in the Maldives today (15 July) carrying 103 tourists from Europe on Qatar Airways.
Mr Mohamed announced a new campaign for the Maldives, “Rediscover Maldives – the sunny side of life”, which also kicks off today. The campaign will concentrate on digital media, and will underline the message that thanks to the “one island – one resort” concept of much of the Maldives, 189 out of the Maldives 198 inhabited islands are totally Covid-19 free.
“Only tourists and staff are accommodated on these resorts, far away from the other inhabited islands, along with the pristine natural beauty surrounding the resorts,” said Mohamed. “Privacy and seclusion are the epitome of what makes it one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world.”
“Our message to you, our dear friends around the world, is this…” said Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulla Shahid. “Yes, Covid-19 has changed the world. It has changed us, too. But your dream destination – the Maldives – has not changed. The warmth in our hearts has not changed. The same white sandy beaches, the same crystal-clear waters, the same underwater gardens, bursting with life and colour, the same sound of waves crashing on our shores, the same lush palm trees, and the same warm breeze that passes through them… The same songs, the same beats of the drum, the same tastes, the same rich culture, the same rich heritage, the same rich art… All this is waiting for you – waiting for you to rediscover the Maldives.”
The Minister said that while all resorts were reopening, guest houses would be allowed to open in August.
As the weeks go by, an increasing number of flights will be bringing travellers back to the Maldives, depending entirely upon the opening of borders in other countries. Flights are, says Mohamed, confirmed from Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrein, Colombo, with Mumbai and Singapore also reportedly starting soon.
Other issues that arise include quarantine measures in a number of countries, meaning that while travellers will be able to go to the Maldives with no restrictions, they may need to self-quarantine upon arrival back in their own country. One case at hand is that of South Korea. “The conversation I am having with the South Korean Foreign Minister has been going on throughout the pandemic,” said the Foreign Minister, adding, “I have spoken to her twice during the pandemic, and I am constantly in touch with the South Korean government. South Korea is a very important market for us, so our aim is to make sure that visitors from South Korea have the easiest ‘in and out’. As for the flights, we are talking with the South Korean Government, and I hope that very soon we will be able to get a positive response. Informally, I know for a fact that we will be seeing a South Korean Airlines flight to the Maldives soon.”
The Minister announced that tomorrow (16 July), the first Director-General level talks are to be held between the Maldives and the Chinese Government, in order to establish new norms for future travel between the two nations, adding that he hoped the talks would reap fruit very quickly. By the same token, the Minister said talks were under way at a senior level with Japan, and that as soon as that nation has revised its own internal travel arrangements, Maldives should be on the list of countries to which Japanese tourists will be able to travel. He added that Japanese tourists should do their best to convince their Government to open allow travel to the Maldives as soon as possible.
Maldives Health Minister, Abdulla Ameen, said he felt a sense of relief and excitement that the visitor restrictions imposed on health grounds have been lifted, and that tourists can yet again be welcomed back to this small and beautiful country. The minister stated that while some Covid-19 cases were still active in the capital Malé and in some atolls, travellers could be reassured that all health and safety measures have been put in place in order for their stay to be safe in every respect. He said the Maldives also had the particularity of enabling tourists to travel directly from the Malé’s international airport to their final resort destinations.
“We have Covid-19 treatment centres across the country, and in Malé, the capital, we have a central Covid treatment facility. All our health professionals are trained to welcome you… all our health centres and health facilities are prepared to serve the visitors. We have put in place all measures necessary to make your stay in Maldives Covid-19 free,” said the Minister.
Mr Ameen says the Government has a policy of “health and safety first” for the resorts across the archipelago. “From sanitising to all the protection requirements that the staff and the guests need to follow, all these have been communicated to the resorts. All the resort staff members have been trained.”
The Minister said all the resorts have been inspected to ensure the facilities adhere with the Government’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). The guidelines have been put together by local health experts in coordination with recognised international standards.
According to the Minister, if a tourist falls ill with Covid-19 during their stay despite being asymptomatic on arrival, protocols have been introduced allowing them to either stay in a dedicated facility, or even to remain in quarantine at their chosen resort if the symptoms are not serious.
Those wishing to visit the Maldives from any country are able to obtain a free 30-day upon arrival visa, once they fill-out an online health questionnaire.
Photo – top of page – JA Manafaru Maldives Resort