“What’s wrong with the Maldives campaign is the timing,” he said, noting that it started before travelers could be vaccinated. “It’s off. It’s not the moment to do that.”
When the Maldives shut its borders last March to guard against the virus, it did not make the decision lightly: Tourism employs more than 60,000 of the country’s 540,000 people, more than any other industry in the private sector, according to Nashiya Saeed, a consultant in the Maldives who recently co-wrote a government study on the pandemic’s economic impact.
“When tourism shut down, there was no revenue coming into the country,” Ms. Saeed said. Many laid-off resort workers who live in the capital, Malé, were forced to moved back to their home islands because they could no longer afford it, she added.
As the health authorities worked to contain local outbreaks, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s advisers developed a strategy for restarting tourism as quickly as possible. One advantage was that most of the country’s luxury resorts are on their own islands, making isolation and contact tracing much easier.
“We really planned this out, we knew what our advantages were and we played to them,” said Mr. Solih’s spokesman, Mohamed Mabrook Azeez.
When the Maldives reopened in July, health officials required P.C.R. tests, among other safety protocols, but did not subject tourists to mandatory quarantines. Around the same time, the country’s public relations agency switched its international marketing campaign and urged travelers to “rediscover” the Maldives.