The Maldives, a small 26-island nation located in the Indian Ocean, has become a major center for Chinese tourists in recent years, ranking at 10th on the Hurun Report’s list of the top tourism destinations for China’s affluent travelers. In order to find out what’s luring the Chinese visitors out to this small paradise over other sunny locales, Wall Street Journal‘s Wei Gu sat down with Kent Zhu, the chief marketing officer of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which entered the Maldives in 2004.
According to Zhu, direct airline flights and social media buzz were two main reasons for the destination’s growing popularity. “We work very closely with airlines,” he said. According to him, there weren’t any direct flights from China to the Maldives before Shangri-La opened its resort there, but “China Southern and China Eastern were very cooperative with hoteliers like us.” In addition, younger travelers sharing their experience on social media had a huge impact. “The market for the Maldives was really promoted by the younger generation of Chinese. When they went there… there was a lot of social media buzz in the market.”
One main obstacle for the Maldives in regards to attracting tourists may be its ongoing political strife. In September, China issued a travel advisory for those traveling to the location amidst ongoing protests. The advisory stated that the area is “generally stable,” but visitors should avoid non-essential travel to Malé.
Zhu also states that China is the most important market for the luxury chain. “Wherever we put up a hotel, the Chinese market is always at the back of our minds,” he says. Locations across the world are scrambling for the attention of the high-spending Chinese tourist market, so what is Zhu’s forecast for the next big destination? In his opinion, China’s travelers will be flocking to none other than Turkey.