In September 2020, the Maldives announced its plans to become the first country in the world to launch a loyalty program for visitors. It’s an intriguing concept — loyalty programs can influence consumer behavior, and 69% of the country’s GDP comes from tourism, so what could a tourism loyalty program look like?
Well, we now have all the details. This follows the recent news that the Maldives will no longer require testing for vaccinated visitors, and that the country will soon be vaccinating visitors on arrival.
Maldives Border Miles program details
Maldives Border Miles is the name of the Maldives’ new loyalty program. This is a joint effort between the Ministry of Tourism, Maldives Immigration, Maldives Airports, and the Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation.
With this new loyalty program, you can rack up points that earn you elite status, and in turn the elite status can get you exclusive privileges and perks. You can enroll in the program when you submit your Traveler Health Declaration (THD), which is a mandatory requirement for all travelers to the Maldives. Alternatively, you can enroll directly online.
Maldives Border Miles status tiers
The Maldives Border Miles program has three tiers focused on promoting tourism. The three membership tiers are as follows:
- The Bronze membership level is called Aida, and requires 500 points
- The Silver membership level is called Antara, and requires 2,000 points
- The Gold membership level is called Abaarana, and requires 4,000 points
Earning points with Maldives Border Miles
Tourists enrolled in the Maldives Border Miles program earn points for each border crossing, and can earn additional points for visits on special occasions. Here’s how many points you earn:
- Earn 50 points per border crossing
- Earn 30 points if visiting for a honeymoon
- Earn 30 points if visiting for a wedding anniversary
- Earn 30 points if visiting for a birthday
- Earn 20 points if visiting between June 1 and August 31 of any year
- Earn 10 points if visiting over an Eid holiday
- Earn five points for each night spent in the Maldives, up to 30 nights per visit
- Earn five points for services obtained from partners (as of now there are a limited number of partners, which can be found here)
The points earnings opportunities stack, so if you stay for a week in the off-season and it’s both your wedding anniversary and you’re celebrating a birthday, you’re looking at a minimum of 165 points for one visit.
Note that points can’t directly be redeemed for anything, but rather points earn you status tiers, and then each of the status tiers comes with perks. Points never expire, so you earn status based on your “lifetime” visits to the Maldives (though I don’t think the program is retroactive, unfortunately).
Maldives Border Miles status benefits
What privileges do you get for earning status in the Maldives Border Miles program?
- Bronze status (called “Aida”) is entry level status, and the perks can be found here; benefits primarily include 3-10% savings at select hotels, spas, and restaurants
- Silver status (called “Antara”) is mid tier status, and the perks can be found here; the primary benefit is that members get fast track immigration on arrival and departure, as well as savings of 5-15% at select hotels, spas, and restaurants
- Gold status (called “Abaarana”) is top tier status, and the perks can be found here; the primary benefit is that members get fast track immigration on arrival and departure, as well as savings of 10-20% at select hotels, spas, and restaurants
My thoughts on the Maldives’ loyalty program
I think the Maldives deserves huge credit for this initiative, because no other country has tried this before.
Before talking about the execution of this initiative, let’s look at the big picture. What makes the Maldives unique is that it’s heavily reliant on tourism, and tourism to the Maldives tends to be high-end.
I’d guess that on average each visitor contributes thousands of dollars to the Maldives’ economy, and heck, maybe even several hundred dollars in direct taxes. So I understand the desire to encourage tourism.
The Maldives is a super high end vacation destination
The way I view it, there are two general challenges with the concept of a loyalty program like this.
First of all, loyalty programs work best when they move the needle with consumer behavior. Will anyone travel to the Maldives because of this loyalty program? Will this cause people to plan a trip to the Maldives that they wouldn’t have otherwise taken, or go to the Maldives instead of another destination? That’s doubtful.
That also gets at the second point — the Maldives is a premium vacation destination, so if you want to encourage people to plan expensive trips, you also have to offer premium rewards. Getting a koozie as a reward after five trips to the Maldives is unlikely to generate much goodwill, and might even be counterproductive.
So, how did the Maldives do with its loyalty program? I have a couple of takeaways:
- I think the structure for earning points is well thought out; they incentivize the border crossing, and then incentivize coming for a special occasion, incentivize coming in the off season, and incentivize staying for longer, all of which makes sense
- Fast track immigration for two of the three elite tiers is a useful perk, no doubt
However, the rest of the status perks seem… not very valuable. It’s like “wow, you’re telling me if I come to the Maldives 37 times, I can get 15% off at Hard Rock Cafe?! I’m in!” And this is especially useless when you consider that most visitors to the Maldives are confined to one resort, so it’s not like you can even visit most of these partner businesses.
In fairness, the budget for the program is probably very small, so I’m guessing all of the perks are comped by the businesses as a mutually beneficial way of generating new business. So while the effort is commendable, the rewards structure leaves a bit to be desired.
Maldives Border Miles will offer fast track immigration
The Maldives has become the first country in the world to launch a loyalty program for visitors. You earn points for crossing the border, and then earn more points depending on when you’re traveling, if you’re celebrating a special occasion, and how long you’re staying.
Based on how many points you earn you qualify for one of three elite tiers. Unfortunately that’s where the program gets weak — while two of the three elite tiers offer a useful immigration fast track option, otherwise the program just offers mild discounts at some hotels, restaurants, and spas.
What do you make of the Maldives Border Miles program?