Maldives is number one honeymoon destination for 2021, travel firm Kuoni revealed Monday.

Wedding and honeymoon plans have been thrown into disarray over the past six months as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, yet couples are more determined than ever to make their first trip after tying the knot a trip they will never forget.

In a new honeymoon report, worldwide travel specialist Kuoni says it has seen a steady stream of bookings for 2021 which includes both re-bookings for cancelled honeymoons this year and new bookings from couples planning ahead.

Saving up and upgrading is a trend as couples pull out all the stops to make their honeymoon extra special with the average spend per honeymoon rising by £530 ($680) from £7,709 ($9,899) in 2019 to £8,247 ($10,590) for 2021, based on advance bookings so far.

There has been a double digit increase in couples taking two honeymoons, one short trip to places in in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy or Greece immediately after their wedding ceremony with plans to take a bigger long-haul trip next year or the year after.

Honeymoons in UK and Ireland have also increased as travel restrictions this year continue, and Kuoni has even helped a couple due to honeymoon in the Maldives this year change their trip for a luxury two-week road trip in Scotland.

The report reveals that with an extra year to save, couples are taking the opportunity to make their plans more special upgrading the flights or arranging a helicopter transfer rather than a car so they arrive in style, upgrading their accommodation to overwater pool villas or adding extra experiences such as hot air balloon flights.

Remote retreats away from the crowds, private pool villas and tented camps in Africa are all in demand.

The Maldives tops the dream honeymoon destination list for 2021 followed by Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Kenya and Tanzania, South Africa, Italy, Bali, Thailand, Greece and the Seychelles. Despite travel restrictions for immediate travel, couples are continuing to plan ahead.

“I’ve worked really closely with couples since the coronavirus crisis started to impact so many honeymoon plans over the summer. It’s been rewarding to help couples reshape such a special trip at an emotional time for them. They’ve had the huge disappointment that their wedding plans aren’t going ahead and at times we’ve all been in tears,” Stacey Owens, one of Kuoni’s honeymoon experts, said.

“We’ve pulled out all the stops to help couples with their plans. The human touch has been welcomed.”

The changing travel advice alongside the pandemic also means that couples are turning to trusted brands who promise flexibility in case anything needs to be changed before they go.

Video appointments for honeymoon planning are also in demand. Since introducing honeymoon appointments by Zoom in July, Kuoni has arranged hundreds of virtual meetings with couples who want to see and “meet” a travel expert and talk about their plans.

“This has been an emotional time for a lot of couples and behind the scenes our team have moved mountains to help couples change their plans, recreating complex itineraries for new dates next year or even the year after. We’ve helped change honeymoon plans for doctors, nurses and key workers and our flexible approach has been welcomed at a really stressful time,” Derek Jones, CEO of Kuoni, said.

A honeymoon is still the most important holiday of a couple’s life and the signs are that despite the turmoil in travel, people are still determined to adapt their wedding and honeymoon plans within the guidelines so we’ve booked all sorts of last minute trips closer to home. But there’s no doubt that the romance of travel is alive and well and the lure of the wonders of the world is still as strong as it ever was.”

What’s trending:

  1. Private pool villas
  2. Secluded luxury away from the crowds
  3. Private in-villa dining
  4. Multi-destinations including adventure and beach
  5. Saving and upgrading
  6. The double honeymoon
  7. Spa and health retreats
  8. Luxury UK and Ireland honeymoons
  9. African safaris with tended camps

Kuoni’s best-selling honeymoon destinations for 2021:

  1. The Maldives
  2. Sri Lanka
  3. Mauritius
  4. Kenya and Tanzania
  5. South Africa
  6. Italy
  7. Bali
  8. Thailand
  9. Greece
  10. Seychelles

Kuoni’s best-selling mini-moons based on bookings for 2020 and advance bookings for 2021:

  1. Italy
  2. Greece
  3. Spain
  4. England and Scotland
  5. Ireland

In June, Kuoni said bookings for the Maldives were outperforming every other destination in its collection, accounting for 56 per cent of bookings for 2021.

Recent Google search data has also shown the Maldives as the second most searched holiday destination among global travellers.

These positive developments come as the Maldives reopened its borders to visitors on July 15.

With the border reopening, 30-day free on-arrival visa is issued to all tourists with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country.

There is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival, but tourists have to complete an online health declaration form and provide a negative PCR test result taken at least 72 hours prior to their departure.

Visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms are also tested at their own expense.

The coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.

However, only 382,760 tourists visited the Maldives before the country closed its borders on March 27. It was a 40.8 per cent decline over the 646,092 that visited the Maldives from January to March last year.

Meanwhile, the government’s best case scenario now puts total tourist arrivals for 2020 just above 800,000. 

Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.

However, the government is at present projecting a possible 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.

On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.

Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.

A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 9,243.

Thirty-three deaths have been reported, while 7,536 have made full recoveries.

The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.

The public health emergency declaration allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.

Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks were also shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital were asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.

A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands was also ordered.

The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the third phase measures now active.

Photo: The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort