Africa Travel Week

How to capitalise from a crisis as a destination – The Maldives Story

When you mention The Maldives as a destination, dreamy visions of white sand beaches, crystal clear azure waters, luxury properties floating above with happy honeymooners gazing out to the horizon. A beautiful destination for romance and luxury. Sigh.

Fast forward to the year 2022, in an almost post-apocalyptic world frazzled by a never-ending health pandemic, tough and inconsistent travel restrictions, increasing inflation and concerns about the environment and you wonder if this destination remains top of mind for many? After all, the Maldives is made up of tiny atolls in the Indian Sea with Africa to the West and India to the North, not that easy to reach and then the image of luxury may frighten the frugal wallets of others.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. According to the latest travel intelligence and air ticketing data from ForwardKeys, this tropical paradise has been basking in the glowing effects of wise data-driven business decisions.

Indeed, the lifestyle may be typical island life, but at work, the National Tourism Board of Maldives has been very progressive as early adopters of Big Data for tourism planning.

“Evaluating detailed arrival data to identify travel trends is the best way to see how effective our marketing efforts have yielded positive growth. It’s great to see tangible results in the form of useful data, and it’s crucial for identifying emerging trends so we know which markets to concentrate on when planning and rolling out activities,” stated Mr Thoyyib Mohamed, the CEO & Managing Director of Visit Maldives.

“To help the destination gain a better understanding of who is booking and how the changing restriction affects travel, we’ve introduced Destination Gateway alongside our monthly reports so they can check travel restrictions as they happen/ the changing demand/benchmark their destination against others and get more of an up-to-date image of the traveller profiles,” said Nan Dai, Insights Analyst at ForwardKeys.

The changing type of traveller is something the destination managed to handle swiftly and successfully due to the data at their disposal – gone are the days of targeting honeymooners from Western Countries. Since 2019, The Maldives has seen a 120% growth in solo travellers and 81% growth in families of 3 – 5 people. Not the audience you were thinking of, right?

What’s the secret behind their success, you wonder? “It’s not just about having the right data but knowing how to use it effectively and regularly”, says Thoyyib Mohamed.

Meanwhile, Nan Dai says: “I think travel restrictions are playing a key role in their success. The Maldives was one of the few destinations to reopen as early as July 2020 and continues to see an increase in arrivals since then. According to airline ticketing data in 2021, international arrivals grew by 67% when compared to 2020.”

Thoyyib adds: “Air connectivity and hyper-targeted marketing campaigns are the keys to success for us. In 2021, direct international seat capacity to the Maldives was increased by 117% compared to 2020. In 2022, in the next six months, it is scheduled to rise by 51% YoY.”

This strategy is not only effective but also luring in the affluent markets from Russia and afar who prefer to fly in premium class cabins, up by 74% compared to 2020.

One of the new source markets on the radar for 2022 and beyond is China. In early January this year, a mutual visa exemption was signed between the two nations. “Once outbound China travel resumes, it will be exciting to monitor the impact on tourism due to this new agreement,” adds Dai.

The moral of the story is not to press the panic button when a crisis looms but to take a breath and find a scientific solution to the problem. Once life resumes to normal, you can bet the honeymooners will be back but happily co-existing with the solo digital nomad and families in a paradise called, The Maldives.

The ForwardKeys team are proud to be data partners of WTM Africa and will be attending in Cape Town as well as presenting on the Global Stage.

  • Shingai George, Insights Expert: ForwardKeys on Monday, 11 April at 14h30 on the Global Stage as he joins the following panel discussion:
    Why the Tourism industry holds the key to the recovery of aviation in Africa
    With over 50% of international tourists arriving at their destination by air, it can be argued that the airline should be a destination’s most important customer. So why do many remain removed from the process of route development and what can be done to address this imbalance? In this panel we will explore what an airline looks for in terms of an approach by a destination, how destinations are adapting this and what methods will be successful in a post-pandemic era. Presented by AviaDev Africa
  • Olivier Ponti, Vice President Insights: ForwardKeys on Tuesday, 12 April at 11h30 on the Global Stage as he is joined by Robert Manson, Chief Digital Transformation, Technology, Data Analytics & Insights Officer: South African Tourism for the following fireside chat:
    Africa Today and Tomorrow, a travel review by ForwardKeys
    Postcovid travel and sustainable tourism are hot topics, but how will African destinations handle the new wave of tourists after the pandemic. Olivier Ponti from ForwardKeys shall reveal what the latest travel data trends are and how can Africa make the most of it in the New Age of Travel. The stage will be shared with special guests from Africa with a live Q&A at the end.

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.