For many small island states, particularly those far from the mainland, tourism often plays a central role in the national economy. In the case of the Maldives, a small tropical nation situated in the Indian Ocean, this is especially true.
The Maldives is made up of 1,192 coral islands, joined together in a chain of 26 atolls, and has a population of fewer than 400,000 people. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the direct contribution of tourism to the Maldives economy was a staggering 41.5% of total GDP in 2014. If you include tourism’s indirect contribution, the proportion of GDP jumps to 78.1%. This ranked the Maldives as second in the world in 2014 when it comes to travel and tourism’s direct importance to the economy.
Naturally, for a country situated 430 kilometres from the closest mainland in India (and that’s only the northern-most of this vast set of islands) air links are naturally invaluable to its economy. The main international airport in the Maldives is situated in the capital, Malé, although there are domestic airports, such as the one on the southern island of Gan.
According to the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, a total of 1.5 million tourists arrived in the country in 2014, all of these by air. That equates to over three times the population of the islands passing through in one year! In February 2015 alone, the Maldives welcomed a record 120,468 tourists to the islands.
To travel to the numerous holiday resorts scattered around the archipelagos, aviation also plays a major role, with two charter seaplane companies transporting visitors to their destinations. Seaplanes are vital connectors of people in the Maldives, where in 2011, 44 seaplanes recorded more than 100,000 operations, connecting 66 locations. Due to their versatility, and, of course, ability to land on water, seaplanes are an ideal form of aircraft for a country like the Maldives.