The fifth meeting of the Joint Meeting Mechanism was held at the Maagiri Hotel on Thursday to enhance the safety of Chinese tourists in the Maldives, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting was co-chaired by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheryna Abdul Samad and Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives Wang Lixin.

The meeting was convened as a continuation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two nations during President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Maldives in September 2014. The primary focus of the meeting was to address the safety concerns of Chinese tourists visiting the Maldives.

State Minister Sheryna, in her opening remarks, expressed satisfaction over the resurgence of Chinese tourist arrivals in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. She noted that China has ascended to the position of the third-largest tourism market for the Maldives. She also expressed optimism about a significant demographic shift in the Maldives’ tourist population with the commencement of direct flights from China, forecasting a substantial increase in arrivals.

The State Minister emphasised the Maldivian government’s commitment to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all tourists, including those from China, according to the foreign ministry. She stressed the importance of a dedicated platform to address critical issues and implement effective measures, thereby enhancing communication and coordination for the safety of Chinese tourists in the Maldives. She also recognised the positive outcomes achieved through this mechanism, the ministry added.

Ambassador Wang expressed her gratitude to the Maldivian government for its coordination and cooperation in ensuring a safe environment for Chinese tourists in the Maldives. She reassured that this collaborative mechanism would augment the joint efforts of the Maldives and China in safeguarding Chinese tourists within the Maldives, the foreign ministry said.

This development aligns with the government’s ambitious plans to reinstate China as the top source market for tourism this year. Prior to the pandemic, China was recognised as the Maldives’ largest tourism market. Despite currently ranking third, concerted efforts are underway to attract more Chinese travellers, with a positive growth trajectory anticipated.

As part of this effort, Hong Kong Airlines resumed direct flights to the Maldives two weeks ago. In addition to Hong Kong Airlines, three other Chinese airlines—Szechuan Air, China Eastern, and Beijing Capital Airlines—also operate flights to the Maldives.

In 2023, China was the third-top source market for the Maldives, with 187,118 Chinese tourists contributing 10 percent of the market share.