• Saturday, April 20, 2024


Maldives alarmed as India tourists continue to boycott archipelago

Travel agencies and operators relying on Indian arrivals report a revenue decline of 80 per cent, said a Maldivian news portal. 

(L-R) Maldives incoming president Mohamed Muizzu (Photo by MOHAMED AFRAH/AFP via Getty Images) and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

By: India Weekly

AMID a diplomatic row with India, the Maldives have found its revenue earned from the tourism industry dwindling owing to a rapid decline in Indian tourist visits this year. The situation has prompted calls for Male to mend the fence with New Delhi. 

India, which was the highest contributor to the Indian Ocean island-nation’s tourism industry not long ago, has seen itself going to the sixth position in the current year as several tourists from the country are avoiding the archipelago, the economy of which is highly dependent on tourism. The steady decline in India’s contribution towards the Maldivian economy has forced the local tourism industry to flag the danger.

The row started in January when three officials of the Maldives allegedly made derogatory remarks against India and its prime minister Narendra Modi on social media after the PM posted pictures and videos of India’s own pristine island chain of Lakshadweep on his X account after visiting it in the first week of 2024.

Besides common people, a number of celebrities also emphasised on promoting tourism in Lakshadweep. There were also reports of Indian travel agencies cancelling holiday bookings in the Maldives.

Maldives newly elected president Mohamed Muizzu has triggered the situation by taking a pro-China stance and asking India to withdraw its military presence on his country’s soil and asking the Chinese to propel the Maldives’ tourism industry.

The repercussion was soon felt in the archipelago as the Maldives tourism ministry revealed the drastic fall in Indian tourists’ footfall in that country. In 2023, more than 209,198 Indian tourists visited the Maldives, the most by any nationality, followed by Russians — 209,149 and Chinese — 187,118. More than 1.7 million tourists visited the Maldives in the year.

More than 240,000 Indian visitors reached the Maldives in 2022 while more than 211,000 went there in 2021. The country was one of the few ones that remained open for international tourists during the Covid-19 pandemic and nearly 63,000 Indians went there at the time. 

The situation has changed completely as the Maldivian ministry’s data showed that as of March 2, 2024, only 27,224 Indians visited that country, 33 per cent less compared to the same period in 2022 when the number was 41,224. China has grabbed the first position now followed by Russia. 

Explaining how India plays a vital role in sustaining tourism-related receipts to the state during off-peak season, Maldivian news portal Sun.mv said: “Indian travellers have a counter-travel pattern to European travellers; meaning Indian visitors frequent to the Maldives during hot seasons, which coincides with a drop in European market arrivals. In other words, India is the most significant ‘filler’ for the Maldives tourism off-peak season.”

It also said on Tuesday (12) how tourism industry experts and analysts have highlighted the adverse impacts of dwindling Indian arrivals to the Maldives, while some have forecast estimated losses north of $1.8 billion (£1.4 billion) to $2 billion (£1.5 billion).

“Travel agencies and operators relying on Indian arrivals report a revenue decline of 80 per cent – a dangerous prospect,” the report said.

Travel Connection Maldives CEO Mohamed Mirshad said it is not only Indian passport-holders who have boycotted the country but also the number of wealthy Indian-origin travellers from other nations have gone down.

This is the most opportune moment for the island nation to mend fences with its ally. It is also logical that the smaller countries are in need of security and safety ensured by their larger allies. Any conduct to the contrary would not result fortuitously for the Maldives, as evident with the current tourism industry statistics and revenues,” Sun.mv said.

(With PTI inputs)

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