Tourists stranded in Maldives over Iceland volcanic ash cloud

Tuesday, 20 April 2010 18:24

The ash cloud spread across the Europe due to Iceland’s volcanic eruption is preventing tourist arrivals and departure from the Maldives, as several flights were cancelled within the last three days, government authorities have reported.

Airports Company said 16 scheduled flights, including flights of British Airways, Monaca, Condo, Air Berlin, Meridiana and Sri Lankan Airlines have been cancelled from last Saturday to Tuesday.

“Four flights have been cancelled today as of now,” an official of Airports Company said.

Tourism Ministry, Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB), along with other parties involved in tourism industry held a meeting yesterday, to negotiate about the issues being faced by the stranded tourists.

“We agreed to initiate a hotline and a communication channel. We will be providing the details to the resorts tomorrow and will be collecting the information about the stranded tourists,” Tourism Minister Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad said, speaking to Haveeru yesterday.

“We will be able to collect all the information about the cancelled flights and charter flights, when we establish this hotline with Airports Company.”

He further noted the tourists and tour operators would not get the refund.

Officials of the airlines noted they could provide the opportunity for stranded tourists to visit other destinations, and added that resorts, tourist hotels and safaris should provide special rates to the tourists who are unable to leave the country, Minister Sawad added.

Tourism Ministry said around 1000 tourists from each tour operator are unable to leave the country.

MTPB stressed that the number of tourist arrivals would be much lower, compared to the projected number.

“We estimated a 25 percent increase this month [compared to last April]. So we are now estimating an 18 percent increase, as around 5000 seats would be cancelled,” Deputy Director of the board, Mohamed Niyaz said.

While 57,186 tourists visited Maldives in April 2009, Tourism Ministry projected 71,482 tourists to visit Maldives this April.

Around 30 European countries shut down their airspace six days ago, due to the ash cloud spread across the region due to Iceland’s volcanic eruption that occurred last Thursday.

While France allowed a gradual resumption of flights, European Union said some airlines would be allowed to resume its flights Tuesday and the operation of all airlines would be restored within this week.


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