Insane? Maldives Says They’ll Open In July With No Restrictions

Tourism represents nearly 30% of GDP in the Maldives, and is the source of 90% of government revenue. They desperately need to bring back visitors.

The country’s initial plan included a 14-day minimum stay, advance visa, and virus testing both prior to departure for the country and on arrival. The hassle and length of stay requirements would mean not many visitors. When I’ve visited the Maldives I’ve generally gone for about 5 days and would consider 14 days to be way too long and more time than I can spare.

According to the country’s Ministry of Tourism they’ve done a complete 180, and plan to welcome visitors next month without restriction: no minimum stay requirement, and no testing.

Is This Insane?

Cases of COVID-19 didn’t reveal themselves in earnest in the Maldives until mid- to late-April. New daily cases do appear to have come down in the last week and a half. Of approximately 2000 confirmed cases, there have been only 8 deaths.

On a per capita basis they’ve seen more virus spread than my home city of Austin, but far fewer terminal cases. With just 9 to 26 confirmed cases per day since June 2 the country is in a good position to contain the virus, and not merely mitigate its spread.

When I first started visiting the Maldives there were a significant number of Russian visitors. More recently Chinese visitors have become common. While spread of the virus has slowed down in Europe, it’s at a peak in Russia and it’s plateaued at a high level in the U.S. Tourist arrivals will most certainly bring in more cases and those cases will likely spread at resorts, though much of Maldives life including resort life is outdoors where the virus tends not to spread as well.

Given the progress they’ve made limiting spread recently, it seems insane to invite it back in without restriction. On the other hand it seems insane as well to leave much of the country out of work and the government starved of revenue at the same time. They’re really caught in a difficult position. They need tourism to survive and seem to be saying that the costs of shutting down tourism are greater than the risk of increased spread of the virus.

Maldives resorts are isolated. There’s little mixing of foreign tourists with the local population outside of the airports. Resort staff do interact with guests and return to their communities. So the country needs a plan to limit contact of hospitality workers beyond dealing with guests.

Reasons You May Not Want To Go

I love the Maldives, I’ve been half a dozen times to the Park Hyatt Hadahaa alone (and I’ve had things get in the way of other trips, I’ve cancelled on the St. Regis there three times). I would absolutely love to return.

However there are two major issues worth thinking about before making the trip.

  1. If you get sick while you’re there you’re going to need to quarantine. You shouldn’t travel if you do come down with the virus. That could mean an extra couple of weeks in the country, and it’s not an inexpensive place to be.

  2. This may not be where you’d prefer to seek medical care if you become seriously ill. The main private hospital in the capital of Malé has a total of 6 ICU beds. Hospitals on the atolls aren’t as well supplied although an effort by China to extend its influence has meant an influx of personal protective equipment.

I wouldn’t hesitate to spend time in the Maldives. And at present there’s very little confirmed spread of the virus in the country. My approach would be this: be prepared (and be prepared to fund) a longer stay if something went wrong. And if you’re in an especially vulnerable group, for instance over 60 with pre-existing conditions, consider staying home.

We don’t know what date in July yet they’ll actually open up, so don’t plan near-term travel yet. Consider either a last minute trip or booking something into the future.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. No, not insane
    Taking calculated risks and realizing that not doing this will have more severe consequences than doing this
    That is what governments who care about their citizens do as opposed to governments that are taking advantage of an unfortunate situations, each for it’s own reason
    Of course politicians do not suffer personal economic consequences so they rather appear doing something just in case but not necessarily the right thing
    And now drumroll, let the bashing begin
    Just for disclosure, not a conservative or a trump supporter

  2. @Doug /end thread. Just totally nailed it.

    I don’t understand the reason people complain what *other* people do?
    Maldives fully open is delightful.
    Smart leadership, looking at facts and weighing pros and cons and doing what is best for their people.

    Would that other governments were this rational.

  3. This makes no sense. It’s not that hard to have either a test within 72 hours of arrival or on arrival. Those that get bad COVID symptoms at a resort will have a heck of a time deciding when/if they need to head to a hospital in Male, via seaplane in most cases, not to mention the risk of mass spread to other guests and employees during the period before they know they are even sick.

    Their original 14 day minimum plan was crazy, but this is also crazy.

  4. No, not insane. As a physician, this has been the biggest hoax in world history (next to climate change of course). You have a better chance of dying from the flu than you do from the Chinese Wuhan virus, not even close. SO… every year when the flu comes around are we going to start worldwide quarantines again as well as wearing masks are designed to stop bacteria (the kind that most ppl are wearing) and not viruses? Hopefully, people are onto the constant nonsense on TV/Media 24/7 to push agenda’s and taking advantage of people. It’s a shame and I believe ppl are finally waking up.

  5. Gary wrote, “And if you’re in an especially vulnerable group, for instance over 60 with pre-existing conditions, consider staying home.”

    He should have written, “And if you’re in an especially vulnerable group, for instance anyone over 60 and people of any age who have pre-existing conditions, consider staying home.”

    Let’s not change the official medical guidance.

  6. @ Kevin – as a physician I diagnose you with fullofshit syndrome.

    Masks don’t stop viruses, but they do stop the larger droplets people excrete through their mouths and noses. This reduces virus transmission. Some people act as though anything less than 100% effectiveness is useless. Those people can choke on @Kevin’s bollocks if he had any which clearly he does not.

  7. Take a look at youtube & see what the locals are doing over there now in china. Are we being lied to? Opening will increase risk w/o question, so is cooking with fire, but at what cost to not to do so?

  8. @Gary
    You should consider selling MAGA merchandise to further monetize this blog. If the comments are reflective of your readership, you’ll find an extremely receptive audience.

    But, a word of caution, no need to stock MAGA facemasks as they’re never worn.

    As someone once said……“What do you got to lose?”

  9. @Kevin

    MD? Did you buy that thing at Sears? There are incompetent Doctors in America, especially ones who have time to comment on blog posts…..

  10. Not defending @Kevin, but he does have some valid points. In a matter of days we went from socially distance\wear masks to get as close as possible to others and protest\mask optional.

    The World Health Organization went from “wear masks” to “masks don’t help and don’t wear if not sick”

    The real issue is the 24/7/365 news cycle needs viewers and the web needs clicks. We need hysteria and changing rules so people NEED to watch to find out what to do next…Robots!

    Oh, and not a Trump devotee…..

  11. Not insane, but many would question the choice of destination, a preferred resort of those with more money than sense. It has no style, no class, no culture, is totally/monumentality boring, overpriced by a factor of 5, run by a mob that would happily take the world back to the C14th, takes forever to get to/from. On the plus side, it’s unlikely you’ll die there.

  12. @ktc,

    Yes, you are being lied to. With 20,000 Americans a day still being diagnosed positive with Coronavirus, it is a lie to tell people it is safe to open and go out without masks.

    As for China? They had 11 new cases yesterday, all imported. There’s no community transmission of Coronavirus there, so it’s safe to resume everyday normal activities.

  13. 140,000 people on the main island 3 miles in diameter? I’ve found walking the main island more fun than lying on the beach.

    The ICU beds are for Chinese tourists whose partners stab them with a knife in the throat (happened last time I was there.) because, well…..I’m not really sure why.

    Gary, what if I’m 60 1/2 with pre-existing conditions lSUCH reading blogs while at the resort because the place is more boring than Las Vegas with casinos closed?

  14. Yes, insane. Having been to the Maldives many times there is no way I would sit in a cramped seaplane to get to the good atolls w/other ppl. Long trip back and forth from Male and terrible medical infrastructure. IK has to go to Male for medical treatment. Anyone who risks it -hope you have a lot of money and great evac insurance.

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