A travel corridor which would exempt British holidaymakers from UK quarantine is imminent, suggests tourism leader
The Maldives reopened to international tourists on July 15; Britons are not required to quarantine on arrival or present a negative Covid-19 test.
As resorts gradually welcome back guests and airlines increase services, British holidaymakers can enjoy a stay on one of the 1,192 coral islands, albeit facing quarantine on their return.
The Maldives is excluded from the Foreign Office (FCO) advisory against all but essential travel, making it less arduous to secure travel insurance for a trip there.
However, the country has yet to be included on the UK Governments travel corridors list, which means those travelling from the Maldives to the UK are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
This could soon change. Mr Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director of Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation, told Telegraph Travel: With the Maldives High Commission in the United Kingdom and the government of Maldives, discussions are underway to ease the travel restrictions for travellers from the UK. We hope that the Maldives will soon meet the conditions required for an easing of [the UK's] travel and border measures."
Tour operators have urged for the inclusion of this Indian Ocean nation, which lends itself to socially-distanced holidays think overwater villas for two and private beach dining.
"It's time for the UK Government to adopt a more pragmatic approach to its air bridge and quarantine advice, to help the travel industry, Brian Young, managing director of tour operator G Adventures, told Telegraph Travel. "Places like the Maldives are perfect for those wanting a remote holiday, with secluded accommodation, private villas and small sailing options [...] providing an ideal option for those wanting to create a physically distanced bubble holiday with close friends or family.
There are further signs that the Maldives could be included in the Governments next batch of travel corridors. An amendment to the FCO advice page for the country mirrors a note added to each of the countries included in the first batch of exemptions in the days before the first official announcement of travel corridors.
Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni, told Telegraph Travel that he is hopeful there will soon be a Government update on Maldives travel advice .As it stands now we see no reason why it shouldnt be added [...]. The destination has done a lot of work with hotel partners to create plans for keeping customers safe.
The tourism industry accounts for nearly 30 per cent of GDP in the Maldives, so its reopening has been a priority.
Abdulla Shahid, the archipelagos minister for foreign affairs, referred to a sense of relief and excitement as the country welcomes back tourists.
Among a population of 540,000, the country has recorded 2,831 cases of the virus and 15 deaths, as of July 16.
Below we answer the key questions for those considering a holiday in the Maldives.
Yes, Britons can holiday at a resort without having to quarantine on arrival.
International tourists can enter the Maldives, without quarantine, at Velana International Airport in Mal, as of July 15. Visitors are not required to present a negative Covid-19 test on arrival, or to pay any additional fees.
The Maldives requires passengers on flights to the country to wear face masks, with exemptions for children under six and those with certain medical conditions.
Tourists are required to fill out a Traveller Health Declaration Form 24 hours before departing for the Maldives. They are also encouraged to download the Trace Ekee contract tracing app before landing in the country.
Temperature and screening checks are set up for arriving passengers with quarantine facilities installed for any suspected cases of the virus.
Those displaying symptoms on arrival are required to take a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test at their own cost or at the cost of the tourism facility where they are due to stay. Additionally, local health authorities may conduct random testing, at no cost to travellers.
Yes, airlines are offering a handful of flights to the Maldives with connections in the Middle East.
Emirates and Qatar Airways are running services between London and Mal. Mal Velana International Airport is on Hulhul Island and serves as a gateway for international tourists. Transfers to your resort will be by boat, sea plane or a domestic flight. Return flights are available in July, starting from 620, with Emirates.
Qatar Airways resumed flights to the Maldives on July 15 out of Doha, offering connections through major hubs, including London.
Etihad resumed flights from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives from July 16. Turkish Airlines is tentatively starting flights from July 17.
Initially, international tourists will only be able to stay at resorts. Hotels and guest houses located on inhabited islands will be allowed to open from August 1, 2020.
Of more than 150 resorts in the Maldives, at least 40 are set to reopen in the latter half of July. This includes resorts that have stayed open throughout worldwide lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Among the popular resorts welcoming guests are: Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, three Four Seasons resorts (Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa; Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah; Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru), Soneva Fushi (the original barefoot Maldives retreat) and Soneva Jani.
More will follow suit in August; around 50 more will resume business in September and October.
Tourists are only initially allowed into island resorts, with the exemption for those transferring from the international airport to their hotel.
Despite the resumption of tourism, the country extended its state of public health emergency until August 7. However, restrictions have been eased with government offices and businesses, including shops,cafs and restaurants, having reopened since July 1.
The Maldives Government has given Safe Tourism licences to businesses that meet legislation and safety rules, such as having a medical professional on call or the required stock of PPE.
Rules vary among island resorts. Guests of Soneva properties, for example, will be issued a mask on arrival and be tested for Covid-19. They will then be required to self-isolate in their room or villa until the results come back, which could be up to 24 hours. If the test comes back negative, they will be free to move around the resort, but will need to undergo daily temperature checks and another test on the fourth day of their stay.
You might consider that this is excessive and that were being overcautious, said Sonu Shivdasani, chief executive of Soneva, in a video explaining the process. Yet he said the aim was to make all our private islands Covid-free environments so the guests can truly relax and engage with our hosts (and) fellow guests.
Hilton is slowly reopening its properties on the island nation its guests will have their temperatures checked, but will not be required to take Covid-19 tests.
The company has rolled out new guidelines called Hilton CleanStay for all of its properties. Measures include increased cleaning of public spaces and putting a seal on the doors after cleaning a room to show customers that nobody has since entered.
Meanwhile, Marriott International, which plans to reopen its Maldives resorts in October, is putting in new policies, such as requiring guests to sit at the same table each day for breakfast.
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