Xiamen Airlines, a leading Chinese carrier, has commenced charter flight operations to Malé, a significant development that underscores the strengthening of commercial ties between the two nations. The inaugural flight from Fuzhou City in China’s Fujian Province touched down at Velana International Airport (VIA) on Wednesday.

This direct service from Fuzhou to Malé marks a pivotal milestone in expanding Xiamen Airlines’ international routes and indicates the burgeoning tourism ties between the two countries. The maiden flight, ferrying 236 passengers, demonstrates the escalating demand for travel between China and the Maldives.

With the inclusion of Xiamen Airlines, the total number of Chinese airlines operating flights to Malé now stands at five. The other four Chinese airlines—Hong Kong Airlines, Szechuan Air, China Eastern, and Beijing Capital Airlines—also maintain regular flight schedules to Malé. As of 13 February, China continues to be the leading source market for the Maldives this year, contributing 13.9 percent of the market share with 40,892 Chinese travellers.

Minister of Tourism Ibrahim Faisal noted the initiation of Xiamen Airlines charter flights to Malé as a significant achievement for the administration in its efforts to further expand the country’s tourism sector. In an interview with Public Service Media (PSM), he stated, “This represents a substantial milestone, especially for the tourism sector. Our strategic intent is to orchestrate additional promotional campaigns to enhance the visibility of Maldivian tourism across diverse Chinese locales.”

Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Wang Lixin expressed her confidence in the new service, stating that the Fuzhou-Malé flights will “facilitate people-to-people exchanges and foster tourism cooperation between China and the Maldives.”

In a concerted effort to amplify tourism, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) plans to hold talks with various provincial governments in China. This initiative, revealed by Fathmath Thaufeeq, the managing director of MMPRC, forms part of the administration’s strategic push to promote tourism in China.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, China was acknowledged as the Maldives’ largest tourism market. To rejuvenate this relationship, the government is actively pursuing measures to augment the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives to 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels.