Maldives tourism: How did Indian tourists staying away affect it?

As per the data, there has been a drop of 42.2% in the number of Indians visiting Maldives in the first quarter of 2024. Photo: Shutterstock

The scintillating archipelago of Maldives has been a haven of beach tourism, luring tourists and adventure lovers from all over the world. Indians have always loved the beautiful sun-kissed beaches and the famous Atolls of Maldives. They were the highest among the visitors to the Maldives until a diplomatic row soured the relationship between the two countries. Now, official data reveals that the number of Indian tourists to the island nation has dipped significantly. Maldives may not have expected such a reaction from the Indian travellers after one of its ministers made derogatory remarks against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As per the data, there has been a drop of 42.2% in the number of Indians visiting Maldives in the first quarter of 2024. This is a significant drop compared to the numbers last year. The diplomatic row that escalated after top-ranking Maldivian ministers made controversial statements about the Indian Prime Minister when he appealed to turn Lakshadweep into the world tourism spot, had adversely affected the island nation’s tourism prospects. The remarks caused massive outrage among Indians who reacted sharply by cancelling their trips to Maldives. Campaigns and hashtags to boycott the Maldives were widely shared on social media. In January 2023, around 18, 612 Indian travellers had visited Maldives.

However, in January 2024, it came down to 15,003. According to data released by the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, there had been a dip of 19.4% in the number of tourists in January alone. The downward trend continued in the following months too. In February 2023, 19,497 Indians had visited Maldives. But, it dropped to just 11,522 tourists in February 2024, marking a drop of 40.9%. Meanwhile, March recorded a 54% drop and April saw a dip of 55.6.%. As a result, India slipped to the sixth position in Maldives’ tourism market. Meanwhile, countries like China, Russia, England, Italy and Germany overtook India to bag the top positions. Even though there has been a drop in the number of Indian visitors, Maldives have received, until now, 772,651 foreign tourists. Currently, China tops the tourism market for the island nation.

Countries like China, Russia, England, Italy and Germany overtook India to bag the top positions. Photo: Shutterstock/Denis Moskvinov

Roadshow by MATATO
Meanwhile, the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) held grand road shows in major Indian cities to lure tourists. In 2023, India was Maldives’ top tourism market; however, as per the data released on April 10 this year, India had slipped to sixth position. This prompted the Maldivian authorities to conduct tourism campaigns and road shows in Indian cities. MATATO had conducted road shows after its representatives held discussions with the High Commissioner of Maldives.

Chinese market
Even as the number of Indian tourists kept dipping, Maldives have been receiving Chinese tourists in huge numbers. In March 2024, 13,608 Chinese tourists had visited the archipelago. Compared to the numbers in March 2023, there has been a growth of 78.6%. Until December 2023, India topped the ranking of tourist arrivals in Maldives. However, now, China has overtaken India to become the island nation’s biggest tourism market. As per the data released in March 2024, Russia ranks second followed by the UK, Italy and Germany. The diplomatic crisis began when Mohamed Muizzu was elected as the president of Maldives in November 2023. The pro-China president wanted India out of the country. He had formally requested India to withdraw its military personnel from the island nation before May 10. 88 Indian soldiers were stationed at three airfields to operate rescue and reconnaissance aircraft. 

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