Travelers who long for months of bans and orders triggered by the coronavirus pandemic after a scene change now have a new option. The Maldives were reopened to international visitors this week after being closed to visitors since March 27.
While much of the world has closed its borders or taken strict measures against arriving travelers, the Maldives will not need new arrivals for quarantine or testing, other than a simple temperature control at the airport. There is another rule: Visitors must book their entire stay at the same resort while visiting the South Asian country.
Tourism Minister Ali Waheed has described the impact of the pandemic as "more devastating than the 2004 tsunami and global financial crisis 2008".
With half a million inhabitants, the Maldives have registered more than 2,700 cases of Covid-19.
The government originally announced that visitors would have to pay a new $ 100 and $ 100 visa fee for a Covid-19 test at the airport and would have to stay at least 14 nights. These requirements have now been dropped.
Airlines, including Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, are resuming their flights to the island nation.
Although the nation is open to business, the hotels are only gradually reopening. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island plans to reopen in late September, and St. Regis and all other Maldives Marriott International hotels are not planning to reopen until October.
On-site hotel tests alleviate fears – for some
However, a resort was immediately reopened with new measures to keep away from the virus. Soneva Fushi guests will receive a mask on arrival and will be tested on Covid-19. Guests must then stay in their room or villa until their test results are available again. This can take between six and 24 hours.
If they get negative test results, guests can move around freely, but still have to do daily temperature checks. An additional test will be carried out on the fourth day of your trip.
"You might think that this is an exaggeration and that we are over-cautious," Sonu Shivdasani, CEO of Soneva, told the process in a company video. However, his goal is to "make all of our private islands Covid-free so that guests can really relax and get in touch with our hosts (and fellow guests)".
Shivdasani simply did not address a socially distant guest experience.
"Life is about relationships, you know, the secret of life is about the friendships you make," Shivdasani told CNBC. "This idea that our guests distance themselves was a real challenge for us and we didn't want them to feel uncomfortable when they got in touch with others."
"For the urban empire, luxury means sitting outdoors."
In fact, 55% of sales come from repeat guests, who he said often mix with each other.
One factor that could attract tourists to the Maldives is its bleak nature, especially when compared to a beach club in Mykonos. Many health experts have also found that there is less risk of contracting Covid-19 outdoors than indoors.
"The urban empires have all the famous designer restaurants in their cities, the famous brand chefs in air-conditioned environments," said Shivdasani. "For the urban empire, luxury means sitting outdoors."
Soneva believes its strict health measures could pay off. The hotel said reservations for August are higher than last year. However, not everyone was ready to submit to their new policies.
"We had one or two who thought it was unnecessary and didn't want to get their children through this difficulty," he said, "but most said it actually calmed them down and I got a lot of emails saying : & # 39; Fantastic, Bravo. I've been thinking about where to go, but now I'm coming to stay with you. & # 39; "
Hotels increase the cleaning service
Hilton, which operates three resorts under its brands in the Maldives, is gradually opening up with new measures, including temperature controls for employees and enhanced cleaning procedures.
Nils-Arne Schroeder, vice president of luxury and lifestyle at Hilton's Asia Pacific hotels, explained to CNBC the company's new measures: "They didn't want people to clean their public areas in the lobby. They were always cleaned at night . " Nowadays you actually want to see them during the day so that you know the hotel takes care of the cleaning. "
Last month, Hilton introduced new guidelines for its properties worldwide. Known as Hilton CleanStay, one measure is to seal the doors after cleaning a room to visibly show customers that nobody has entered since.
A socially distant sandbar dinner at Soneva Fushi.
Courtesy of Soneva Fushi
Guests staying at Hilton hotels will have their temperatures checked, but don't need to take Covid 19 tests.
"You can make decisions if you want to distance yourself from everyone else because you can be in your villa, you can dine in the villa all day, you can jump into your ocean … but if you want to be part of it Island community, of course we are ready to ensure that self-removal is available, "said Schröder.
Will tourists be ready to travel if they need to be quarantined afterwards?
Marriott International plans to reopen its resorts in the Maldives in October and is implementing new guidelines, such as: B. The obligation that guests must sit at the same table every day for breakfast.
Whether travelers feel safe enough to travel or leave their hometown and be subject to restrictions remains to be decided. For example, Hong Kong residents who leave the city are required to take a Covid 19 test when they return and are required to quarantine for 14 days while wearing a wristband for location.
Some resorts in the Maldives require guests to undergo Covid 19 testing, while others do not.
"It's nice that the Maldives is open," Vincent Pauchon, general manager of St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, a Marriott property, told CNBC. "We don't see the demand because of so many international restrictions … So you can imagine that someone who comes to the Maldives for six nights and then quarantined for 14 days makes no sense."
However, he said the resort could open within a week if demand shifts.
Chinese travelers have traditionally been the largest source of visitors to the Maldives. New measures allow Chinese nationals to return from the Maldives without having to quarantine as long as they do another Covid-19 test just before their flight and when they return.
Pauchon said he sees a surge in demand with bookings between 40% and 60% for the last quarter of this year, and requests and bookings for 2021 are already being received.
The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort is currently redesigning a large part of its group activities in anticipation of its reopening, such as yoga classes, fitness and boat tours. Amidst physical distance plans, Pauchon is also exploring new ways to attract guests.
"Unfortunately, fewer travelers will come to the Maldives in the next year, fewer travelers, but the same number of hotels. So it will be a very, very competitive market," he said.
"We need to innovate with new activities and experiences so that our guests can enjoy something special. We can't just sell the beach and our villas, it won't work," he said.