The Maldives is taking its pandemic-era tourism success story to a new level: The Indian Ocean island nation announced plans to start offering the coronavirus vaccine to tourists, CNBC reported.
The plan won’t start immediately. Under the proposal, vaccines will only be offered to tourists once the country’s entire population of 530,000 is vaccinated. As of April 20, 6.8% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, per The New York Times’ COVID vaccination tracker. A total of 313,363 doses have been administered in the island nation, or 61 doses per 100 people.
Per a CNBC report from April 14, the initiative is part of Tourism Minster Dr. Abdulla Mausoom’s “3V tourism” plan: Visit, Vaccinate, and Vacation. Tourists will receive two vaccine doses. Mausoom did not specify which vaccine travelers would receive and whether or not they would have to pay for the vaccine themselves.
The country has recorded more than 26,000 coronavirus cases to date, with 70 deaths.
The Maldives closed its borders early on in the pandemic. In July, the country reopened to all tourists — no negative COVID-19 test required. In September, it started to require a negative PCR test upon arrival, but still allowed tourists in without a quarantine period.
In 2019, the island nation saw 1.7 million international visitors. In 2020, as the pandemic ground tourism to a halt, those numbers dropped dramatically. Per a tourism ministry press release, the country welcomed its 500,000th international visitor of the year 2020 on December 17.
The Maldives are far from the only country discussing and implementing various measures to jumpstart tourism.
In March, Seychelles announced it would be opening borders to visitors with no quarantine or vaccine required. Also in March, in an effort to draw visitors back to its beaches, Thailand announced it would allow visitors to serve quarantine onboard their yachts. And on April 19, New Zealand and Australia launched a travel bubble that allows quarantine-free travel between the two countries.
However, the news also comes at a time when the spread of the coronavirus is prompting other countries to tighten their approach to travel. Less than a week after the Maldives’ announcement, the US State Department announced it would be issuing a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for 80% of countries worldwide.
Globally, more new daily coronavirus cases are now being recorded than at any other point in the pandemic, per Axios.