9 Jan 2024

What Experts Say About Potential Decline in Indian Tourist Numbers to Maldives Amidst 'Boycott Maldives' Appeal

In the midst of a diplomatic row between India and the Maldives, triggered by derogatory comments from Maldivian ministers following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Lakshadweep, recent data reveals that Indians continue to dominate the tourist arrivals in the island nation. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, more than two lakh Indian tourists visited the Maldives in 2023, as per statistics from the Maldives tourism ministry.

The figures indicate a consistent trend, with over 2.4 lakh Indians visiting in 2022 and 2.11 lakh in 2021. Notably, during the pandemic, when many countries restricted international tourism, the Maldives remained open, attracting approximately 63,000 Indian visitors.

Examining earlier years, in 2018, India ranked as the fifth-largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives, with 90,474 visitors. This position significantly improved in 2019, as India climbed to the second spot with almost double the arrivals, reaching 1,66,030 visitors compared to the previous year.

Boycott Maldives campaign gains momentum

The 'Boycott Maldives' campaign has gained momentum in India following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Lakshadweep and controversial remarks from Maldives ministers. Consequently, numerous individuals and organizations are canceling their travel bookings to Maldives.

Madhav Oza, director of online travel company Blue Star Air Travel Services, anticipates a significant decline in the number of Indian travelers to Maldives, estimating a reduction of 20 to 30 percent. Oza highlighted the improved relations between the two nations in recent years, citing an increase in Maldives tourism post-Covid with eight daily direct flights from India.

Oza explains, "Considering the influence our Prime Minister has on the people, we can expect a 20 to 30 percent cancellation rate, jeopardizing the positive trends witnessed in the bilateral relationship."

MATI Denounces Maldivian Ministers' Statements

Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has condemned objectionable statements made by Maldivian ministers regarding the Indian Prime Minister. The organization issued a statement on its website, emphasizing the close and longstanding relationship between India and Maldives.

In the statement, MATI acknowledges India's crucial role as a neighbor, ally, and significant contributor to Maldives' tourism industry. It emphasized India's consistent support, especially during post-COVID-19 recovery efforts, and hopes for continued positive relations between the two countries.

MATI said, "We express our gratitude for the enduring friendship and collaboration with India. It is our sincere desire that actions or statements with potential negative impacts on our relations be avoided for the benefit of both nations."

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