Maldives get 600,000 tourists in 2008

January 23, 2008 (LBO) — The Maldive Islands, a key market of two listed Sri Lankan leisure groups, greeted over 600,000 holidaymakers in 2007, the tourism ministry said, boosted by visitors from Britain, Italy and Germany.

Tourism, which accounts for about a third of an economy of just under a billion dollars, grew a “record” 12.3 percent to 675,889 visitors in 2007, the statement said..

Maldives is renowned for its luxury resorts built on stilts over clear blue lagoons where the rich and famous pay up to 14,500 dollars a night to live in “isolation”, snorkel and scuba dive.

Two of Sri Lanka’s top leisure groups, Aitken Spence and John Keells now operates resorts and get a significant portion of their revenues from Maldives.

Home to 369,000 Sunni Muslims, some 90 out of the 200 islands have been developed for resorts. The industry operated 17,511 beds last year, with an average visitor staying just over eight days.

With 125,158 visitors, the UK ranked top among the source markets, followed by Italy (117,246), Germany (72,269), France (45,301), Japan (41,121) and China 35,976.

Tourism has helped this chain of 1,192 coral islands, post South Asia’s highest per capita income of 3,400