Minister of Tourism Ibrahim Faisal has said that discussions are underway with more airlines to increase promotions targeting travellers from China to the Maldives with a view to make the the nation the largest tourism market for the Maldives once more. China was the Maldives’ largest tourism market before the Covid pandemic and he would like to increase the number of tourists visiting the Maldives by 40 percent of what it had been before the pandemic, the Minister said.

Faisal, who is part of President Mohamed Muizzu’s delegation to China, told Maldivian media that the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) is preparing to launch a robust marketing campaign to promote Maldives in China. He is currently working to find ways to connect direct flights from cities across China to the Maldives, he said.

”We now have one airline that has assured us of direct flights to Maldives. I also met with the Commerce Minister here. I will also meet the Tourism Minister tomorrow [on Thursday]. Work with them will enable direct flights to Maldives. That is my hope,” Faisal said.

Events will be held, by MMPRC in collaboration with the tourism industry, across China to promote the Maldives and industry stakeholders will also be invited to participate in the event, the Minister said.

Faisal said Maldives-based tour operators, guest houses, and resorts will also have the opportunity to participate in the promotion which he hoped would yield good results.

It will be very easy for those who have invested in resorts to come to China and meet the airlines to solve the problem. So I am very hopeful that Maldives will be able to draw more tourists from China. More airlines will hopefully be available… The biggest problem is the price. The fare prices are high. So if we can work with local airlines here, if we can give good prices, we can bring tourists to Maldives [even] beyond expectations.

Ibrahim Faisal, Minister of Tourism, explaining the administration’s effort to promote the Maldives in the Chinese market with a view towards increasing the influx of tourist and driving China to the top spot on the list of visitors to the Maldives.

The Ministry of Tourism launched the project after President Muizzu consulted with the Chinese government, expressing his hope for China to regain the top spot on the list of visitors to the Maldives.

Faisal additionally highlighted that as the Chinese New Year was drawing near, it was an opportune time to work towards drawing a good number of tourists to Maldives.

”There is a lot of hope. Especially given the relationship between President Muizzu and the Chinese government, many things will be easier here,” Faisal said.

Faisal further highlighted that China, with ‘a population of billions’ presents a great opportunity for the Maldives, especially given the ‘close relationship’ between the countries.

China was the largest market for the Maldives before the pandemic, with several flights to the Maldives from cities across the nation — Maldivian, the national carrier of the Maldives, also operated flights to China at the time.

While flights between the two countries resumed in January last year, after two years of border closure, visitor figures are far from its highs before the pandemic, with just above a 100,000 tourists from China visiting the Maldives. According to the Ministry of Tourism arrivals from China, between 2008 and 2018, averaged around 240,000 visitors per year.