A new travel incentive: Maldives to offer COVID-19 vaccine shots to lure tourists back
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The island nation in South Asia is believed to be the first country to offer vaccines for visitors as part of its “3V Program” — visit, vaccinate, vacation — to help revive tourism.
An official start date is expected soon, but the vaccinations are seen as crucial for helping the Maldives, a bucket-list destination for many travelers, rebound after the pandemic devastated the tourism industry.
During an interview with CNBC, the country’s tourism minister Abdulla Mausoom emphasized that the new vaccine program for visitors will not come at the expense of Maldives locals.
So far, about 53% of the country’s 530,000 residents have gotten their first dose of the vaccine, according to Reuters. About 90% of the frontline workers in the tourism industry there have also received at least the first shot, according to the tourism chief.
No word yet if travelers will have to pay for the vaccine, but supply doesn’t appear to be a problem. The country has received vaccine donations from India, China and the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative, which aims to ensure that vaccines are fairly and equitably distributed. The Maldives has also ordered additional supplies from Singapore.
“I don’t think supply’s a problem in Maldives because our population is relatively small,” Mausoom said. “The quota we get from the various organizations and friendly nations also will help.”
Tourism is incredibly important to the country’s bottom line, accounting for roughly 67% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The vaccine program is part of an effort to help the island nation achieve its modified goal of having 1.5 million visitors by the end of the year. Hitting that target would still be below pre-pandemic numbers.
The Maldives reopened to visitors last July, including travelers from the U.S., but tourism has been slow to rebound. So far in 2021, 350,000 travelers have arrived, the bulk coming from India looking to take advantage of The Maldives’ limited entry requirements. Visitors still must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken with 96 hours of arrival. The country is set to make an announcement soon that vaccinated travelers will be permitted to enter without restriction.
Featured photo by levente bodo/Getty Images.
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