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Maldives Sees Decline in Indian Tourists Amid Diplomatic Tensions

March 10, 2024 4:43 am

Maldives Records Big Drop In Indian Tourists Amid Diplomatic Row

In a significant development, the Maldives has witnessed a notable 33% decrease in the number of Indian tourists visiting the island nation, according to data from the Maldives Tourism Ministry reported by Adhadhu. The strained diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Male are believed to be a key factor contributing to this decline.

Comparing the figures from March 4 of the previous year to March 2 of the current year, the statistics reveal a drop from 41,054 Indian tourists to 27,224. This significant decrease of 13,830 visitors has shifted India from being the second-largest source market for Maldivian tourism, with a 10% market share, to the sixth position, holding a 6% market share.

The diplomatic tension arose when three Maldivian deputy ministers made derogatory comments about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, specifically in response to his vision for developing the Lakshadweep islands as a beach tourism destination. The remarks escalated the situation, leading to a diplomatic row, with New Delhi summoning the Maldivian envoy and registering a strong protest.

In response to the controversy, the three deputy ministers were suspended but remain under suspension with pay. Earlier this year, concerns were raised within the Maldives tourism industry as a boycott campaign gained momentum in India, even receiving support from popular Indian film stars.

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) conducted a survey to assess the impact of booking cancellations by Indian guests, although the findings have not been publicly disclosed, as reported by Adhadhu.

Despite India consistently being the top tourist market for the Maldives from 2021 to 2023, with over 200,000 tourists each year, the current shift in dynamics sees China emerging as the leading market with more than 54,000 tourist arrivals recorded so far this year. The evolving geopolitical landscape is reshaping tourist preferences, and the Maldives faces the challenge of navigating these diplomatic intricacies to maintain its status as a sought-after travel destination.

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