An explosion in the Maldives capital Male on Thursday night, which injured former president and current parliament speaker Mohamed Nasheed, 53, has been condemned by the international community and described as an “ominous development” for the country.
With the blast site area near the home of Nasheed, who is being treated for several injuries, in the Neeloafaru Magu neighbourhood, which is less than 15 minutes from the city’s main international airport, where does that leave tourists?
Should tourists in the Maldives be concerned?
Velana International Airport is still operating as normal, with flights from Dubai, Istanbul and Singapore having already landed safely on Friday morning.
Maldives Police have secured the scene of the explosion and urged the public to refrain from visiting the area. Road closures are in place.
The UK government’s foreign travel advice states travellers should “remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities”.
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih condemned the “attack on the country’s democracy and economy” and said the Australian police would assist in the investigation.
“We are treating this matter with utmost seriousness,” he said.
Maldives Police has urged the public to contact them if they have any information about the explosion.
Tourism and terrorism in the Maldives
Maldives is known for its luxury resort islands, but has suffered rare violent attacks. In 2007, a blast in a park in the capital injured 12 foreign tourists.
It is still, however, a popular travel hotspot with global travellers, and the Indian Ocean archipelago was the most-favoured destination for Emiratis to travel to in 2020, according to travel specialists at Rehlaty.
“With a convenient four-hour flight time from Dubai, and no requirement for a PCR test ahead of returning home for UAE nationals [flying into Dubai] it’s no surprise that Maldives’ travel packages proved the top choice for travellers,” said Rehab Mansoor, general manager at Rehlaty, part of the dnata Travel Group.
Tourists from the UAE fly in to Male and then take a short speedboat ride or seaplane trip to another island.
Travel to the Maldives in the Covid pandemic
Maldives has been a particularly popular destination amid the pandemic as it has a strict one-resort-per-island policy, which allows for greater social distancing. The country also announced plans to offer tourists the Covid-19 vaccine in a greater push for tourism.
It also launched the I’m Vaccinated campaign, in a bid to have the first fully vaccinated tourism workforce.
Most of the islands are open for tourism, but visitors are not allowed to explore Male, as the capital is the site of the highest number of Covid-19 cases and remains largely off-limits.
On Thursday, Maldives immigration authorities reported it noted an average of 3,040 passenger arrivals per day in April.
All tourists flying to the Maldives need a negative PCR test result, taken no more than 96 hours before travel (for travellers coming from India the time frame is 72 hours and there are also restrictions on where Indian tourists can check in).
The latest update from the Maldives Ministry of Tourism confirms all travellers, including those who have had one or both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, must also show PCR test results and only babies below 1 are exempt.
Travellers must submit their test result and a Travellers Health Declaration form has to be completed 24 hours before travel. If you want to split your stay between more than one resort, you need to apply for permission from the Ministry of Tourism at least 48 hours in advance.