2021 has been a year of economic recovery for many countries after a nearly one-year battle against the global Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 that resulted in a strong backlash on various economic sectors and industries across the globe. One of those countries was the Maldives, which relied mainly on income generated by the tourism industry – which is also its strongest economic sector.

Unsurprisingly, for a country geographically detached from the rest of the world, ideally located in the Indian Ocean, the performance of the tourism industry also depended on the international aviation industry. It was the most dominant mode of transportation and travel for tourists arriving in the pristine archipelagic country.

However, in 2020, the country’s government was forced to close its borders and isolate itself completely from the world as part of a state-run initiative to control the spread of the viral contagion. Meanwhile, many countries around the world were bringing international air operations to a standstill at the same time in order to control the spread.

This has resulted in an abrupt cessation of international carriers operating to the Maldives as the island nation’s main gateway; Velana International Airport (VIA) fell into an operational vacuum due to the aforementioned situation.

The worst was apparently over in 2021 when rapid vaccination efforts and stronger countermeasures against the virus resulted in an overall reduction in the spread of the disease. This then led countries around the world as well as the Maldives to reopen their respective aviation sectors; allowing operations to return to normal.

With the discovery of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 only very recently in 2021, and the consequences of this leading to international travel restrictions and temporary stoppages of flight operations, the aviation industry globally is once again faced with another difficult problem. period – and just like the previous time, the situation is likely to have a big impact on the Maldives as well.

Although economies around the world recovered in 2021, the number of international air passengers was still down to about half of pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest report from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Meanwhile, the latest global travel reports confirm that more than 40 countries have so far imposed travel bans following the rise of the Omicron variant, while many of those countries as well as several others adopt varying degrees of border control measures.

Japan and Morocco are a few examples with a full shutout scenario; which means that they have completely closed their borders again. It was only around Q3 and early Q4 2021 that these countries slowly opened up their tourist attractions and saw growth in their respective tourism industries.

Moreover, these countries also contribute modestly to the Maldivian tourism industry in terms of source markets for tourists – although these are much smaller source markets for the island nation.

ICAO has indicated that so far in 2021, a total of 2.3 billion people have taken 28 million flights to various destinations. This is still 49% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019, when the total number of passengers internationally was 4.5 billion people taking 42 million flights to reach their destinations.

Alarmingly, the aviation industry’s total losses between 2020 and 2022 are expected to reach $ 201 billion, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Meanwhile, the industry globally suffered an upward loss of $ 137 billion, while losses are expected to decline by $ 11.6 billion in 2022; if the global economy recovers as expected. However, the projections are again called into question in light of the new variant of Covid-19 which presents unprecedented circumstances across the world.

The aviation industry experienced a radical paradigm shift in 2020 amid the global pandemic when seven of the ten busiest airports were from China. Before the pandemic, in 2019, Atlanta’s busiest airport saw a movement of 110.5 million passengers while the Chinese capital of Beijing saw a movement of 100 million passengers, making it the second-largest busiest airport in the world during the year while Shanghai Pudong was ranked eighth in 2019 observing the movement of 76.2 million passengers.

However, in 2020, the busiest was China’s Guangzhou Baiyun Airport with a total of 43.8 million passenger movements, while Atlanta ranked second with 42.9 million passenger movements.

In 2021, the ten busiest flight routes in November departed or arrived at Dubai International Airport, while the most popular destinations for travelers departing from Dubai are Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and London, United States. UK.

It was also reported that the global seating capacity by November 2021 was 27% lower than the corresponding period in 2019, once again reflecting the overall performance of the international aviation industry. The largest declines were seen in regions such as Southeast Asia, Oceania and parts of Africa.

There is no doubt that the international aviation industry has not fully recovered in 2021 and the weight of the viral pandemic will also continue to infiltrate the following year, in 2022. At present, an accurate description The overall recovery of the aviation industry remains in uncertain territory and in light of the new variant of Covid-19, the probabilities of said uncertainty have apparently increased again.

Since the aviation industry is linked between countries, there is no doubt that the impact strongly felt in the European peninsula amid the spread of the Omicron variant will have a domino effect that could eventually reach the coasts. of the Maldives, if it hadn’t already been done. reached the island nation.