Africa Travel Week

Travelling to the Maldives: A paradise escape in the time of a pandemic

November marks about eight months since travel has been restricted due to a global pandemic. As much as most are now used to this ‘new normal’ of working from home, exploring our own backyard (to those who are on lockdown this is quite literally your home backyard), and going to zoom for business meetings—we’re all ready to have a break.

UK Aviation analytics OAG conducted a survey where it was found that 69 percent of travellers are ready to travel overseas within the next few months.

In the United States, a survey done by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) revealed that most travellers wish to travel to “uncrowded, outdoor and beach destinations”.

And right now, we can’t think of a more appealing uncrowded, outdoor beach destination than the Maldives. Last month, UK government authorities have made the decision to include the Maldives to their travel corridor after observing that the epidemiological situation in the island country has ameliorated.

Tourism is the largest industry in the Maldives, making up around 28 percent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product), followed by fishing and shipping. The Maldives re-opened their borders to tourists since July of this year.

In October, the country has recorded over 20,000 tourist arrivals, with 94 percent of the Maldives’ resorts already re-opened and welcoming visitors.

Universal Resorts is one of the Maldives’ largest resort management companies that owns and operates eight secluded island resorts around the island country.

I spoke with Visha Mahir, Executive Director of Universal Resorts to hear what it’s been like since July of 2020.

Steady Increase

Visha shares that it has been a gradual process, but an increasing number of airlines are resuming their flights back to Male. British Airways has recently resumed flights to the Maldives. Other airlines that currently fly to the Maldives include Emirates, Air India, Lufthansa, among others.

At the moment, visitors from Russia top the arrivals to the Maldives, followed by the UK.

Just a week ago, on the 1st of November, the Maldives recorded their highest number of tourist arrivals on a single day with 1,582 entries. So it’s been a positive start with a steady increase to the number of tourist arrivals.

Numerous Factors at Play

There are many factors at play when it comes to tourism amidst a global pandemic. For one, it’s not just as simple as the Maldives opening their borders. The visitor markets’ countries also have their respective border restrictions, which change every now and then. As we know, some countries in Europe, including the UK have currently just entered another lockdown. Because things change so quickly, it’s challenging to make predictions. The only thing one can do at this point, Visha wisely shares, is to adapt and be ready when you need to.

New Guidelines

At the moment, every tourist who arrives in the Maldives, regardless of where they come from, is required to have a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test done within 96 hours. Prior to the entire country reopening their borders, the Maldivian government and tourism board have also released their own guidelines and requirements that all resorts must adhere to. On top of this, individual resorts also have their own safety protocols in place.

The average length of stay in the Maldives has also gone up. Current stays now average to over 20 days, according to Maldivian Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom.  Long-staying guests who wish to split their time in different resorts must also obtain a permit from the Maldivian government. This seems necessary, given that every resort in the Maldives is in their own private island.

Travellers’ Safety

Visha shares that for Universal Resort, each of their resorts have medical professionals licensed to carry out PCR tests. Their cleaning procedures have also been enhanced, taking on measures such as keeping a room completely unoccupied for 24 hours after a guest checks out. This is to ensure that the rooms have undergone a full deep-clean and airing out. Social distancing in restaurants have also been implemented, which isn’t really hard to do given that most of the restaurant resorts under Universal are outdoors and spacious. Simple things like only allowing a number of people inside the gym or spas at any given time are also in place. Visha assures that they’ve taken every necessary precaution for guests’ safety without taking away the resort holiday experience.

Visha also shares that for their resorts, every staff that arrives, whether they have returned from another resort, from another island, or from overseas, has to undergo 14 days of quarantine and a PCR test before they are allowed to work.

It’s comforting for any traveller to know that beneath those luxurious overwater villas and inviting turquoise waters, the resorts in the Maldives are still prioritising safety in paradise.

Jean Lim

Jean Carmela Lim is the voice behind luxury and adventure travel blog, Holy Smithereens. Since a childhood trip to Hong Kong and her first typewriter, Jean has spent a lifetime pursuing her passion of travel writing. With a background in the airline industry and government travel, Jean now creates travel content full-time on blogs and social media, exploring life's unforgettable moments through luxurious travels both near and far.