Hong Kong Airlines has resumed direct flights to the Maldives, marking a resurgence of international travel post the Covid-19 pandemic. The inaugural flight under this recommencement landed at Velana International Airport (VIA) on Friday evening, carrying 209 passengers.

The resumption was commemorated with a special ceremony at VIA, symbolising the rekindled connection between Hong Kong and the Maldives. Hong Kong Airlines will be operating the A330 aircraft on this route, with a capacity of 290 passengers, and has scheduled flights thrice a week: Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

This development aligns with the government’s ambitious plans to restore China as the top source market for tourism this year. Prior to the pandemic, China was acknowledged as the Maldives’ largest tourism market. Despite its current sixth rank, concerted efforts are being made to attract more Chinese travellers, with a positive growth trajectory anticipated.

As of 16 January, the Maldives has already welcomed 5,821 Chinese tourists this year, according to the latest statistics by the Ministry of Tourism. In 2023, China was the third-top source market for the Maldives, with 187,118 Chinese tourists contributing 10 percent of the market share.

Hong Kong Airlines first launched direct flights to the Maldives in 2011, initially operating as charter flights. Regularly scheduled flights were introduced in 2018 but were suspended in 2019 due to the pandemic. However, the number of arrivals from China has been on a steady incline, nearing pre-pandemic levels following the reopening of global borders.

In addition to Hong Kong Airlines, three other Chinese airlines—Szechuan Air, China Eastern, and Beijing Capital Airlines—also operate flights to the Maldives. The Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Lixin, recently announced that China is poised to initiate charter flights between various Chinese destinations and the Maldives starting from 14 February.

Ambassador Wang reiterated China’s commitment to support President Mohamed Muizzu in his endeavour to reinstate China as the primary source market for Maldivian tourism. She also alluded to the potential introduction of commercial flights, contingent on an increase in demand. This move signifies strengthening ties between the two nations and a promising future for tourism in the Maldives.