The popular sea country prepares to host more mid-market Indian travelers. As it works to rebrand itself as a more inclusive tourist destination, Maldives is putting special emphasis on India to make sure that people from the country’s growing mid-market sector look towards it as a favoured holiday spot.
While tourists coming in from India to the beautiful sea country have grown steadily over recent years, the numbers do not even closely match that of China that now holds 25% share of Maldives’ tourism sector.
Sensing this crucial omission from a large market that is closest to the country, tourism promotion officials of Maldives have put India among their top six priority nations.
Particular focus is now being placed on marketing the tourist hot spot as a location that can also cater heavily to the mid-market tourist, to shake its image as an exclusively upmarket destination
“We have done very well as far as the upper end is concerned, and we are not apologetic about it. However, we now realise the importance of the mid-market and of providing a more affordable experience,” says Simon Hawkins, Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation.
While Indian tourist inflow has increased at a rate of 28% year on year, its pales in comparison to the inflow from China, that has gone up 90% in recent years.
Given its location, less than an hour flight distance from Thiruvananthapuram, Maldives could have been the ideal Indian holiday spot, but despite being just next door to the country it comprises only 3% of its tourists.
Officials blame lack of sufficient connectivity and the problem of branding as two main obstacles to a huge tourist flow. And they are very keen to address the second aspect. “We are promoting the concept of ‘find your island’ whereby travelers can pick the slot they are looking for. Among the lowest priced categories are islands where you can spend a night in as less as $75 per person,” Simon says.
The country, comprising a little less than 2,000 islands, banks on tourism for its income, and with its lush, sunny beaches, has traditionally been a retreat for Europeans. While the substantial costs of maintaining the island resorts rules out the possibility of operators slashing prices, officials say better marketing and increased connectivity would help. “We believe this place needs to be better sold,” says Shankar Kotha of Universal Resorts.