Maldives sees drop in tourists from India amid diplomatic spat, operators say new bookings ‘slowed down’

The countries with the largest number of tourists to the archipelago in the first 28 days of January were Russia (18,561), Italy (18,111) and China (16,529).

Even as tourists from India declined in numbers, January 2024 saw a 11.9 percent growth in the tourism sector for Maldives in comparison to 2023. A total of 174,400 tourists travelled to the country till 28 January 2024, in comparison to 155,851 tourists during the same period last year.

Maldivian tour operators told ThePrint that the fall in Indian tourists to the island nation has been predictable as other global markets have opened for Indian travellers.

They also pointed out that due to the current geopolitical tensions, tour operators were not too keen on selling Maldives as a destination to India for at least a few months.

Akhmeem Razzaq, founder and managing director of Maldives Getaways, a tourism company operating out of Maldives, told ThePrint that the number of Indian tourists have declined in the last few months.

“Indian tourists travel in two segments to the Maldives — luxury and local tourism. The high-paying luxury tourism sector has seen numbers remain stable, while the latter has seen a drop,” Razzaq told ThePrint. “We have not received cancellations in the recent past, but there has been a slowdown in new bookings.”

Ties between India and the Maldives have been strained since three deputy ministers of the Maldivian government — now suspended — made disparaging remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media.

Razzaq’s comments echoed those of Indian tour operators, who had earlier told ThePrint that there were no cancellations of trips to Maldives, but new inquiries had reduced.

Also Read: Maldives’ Muizzu faces flak for not using Indian Dornier to airlift 13-yr-old who suffered stroke

Focus on other markets

Mohamed Firaq, managing director, Inner Maldives Holidays, told ThePrint that for the next three months or so, tour operators may not be too keen on selling Maldives as a destination to Indians.

“Due to the geopolitical situation, Maldivian tour operators may not heavily sell the country to Indian tourists. However, traditional markets such as Italy have opened up again,” Firaq told ThePrint.

Till 2019, Italy had been a larger market for Maldives than India. In 2018, a total 105,297 Italians travelled to Maldives, in comparison to 90,474 Indians, according to data published by the Maldivian tourism ministry.

In 2019, tourism from India to Maldives grew by 83.5 percent, overtaking Italy, and accounting for the second-highest number of tourists to the island nation with a total of 166,030, according to the Maldivian ministry.

Firaq pointed out that 2018-2019 saw a set of domestic issues within Italy that affected its tourism to Maldives. He also highlighted that with the pandemic restrictions slowly receding, Italians along with Germans and British travellers were slowly returning to the Maldives.

Data from the Maldivian ministry says the UK, with 14,588 travellers, is fourth in the market share, just above India.

For Razzaq however, India will still remain among the top 10 markets for years to come.

(Edited by Tikli Basu)

Also Read: ‘Deeply concerned’ — Muizzu gets flak from Maldives’ 2 largest oppn parties for ‘sharp anti-India pivot’


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