Drop in Indian Tourists Could Cost Maldives Billions

Relations between Maldives and India began to sour after several high-ranking Maldivian officials made disparaging remarks about Indian Prime Minister Ibrahim Narendra Modi during his early 2024 visit to the Lakshadweep Islands, causing a strain in the geopolitical ties between the two nations.




Tensions between India and the Maldives have escalated following derogatory comments made by senior Maldivian officials towards Indian Prime Minister Ibrahim Narendra Modi during his 2024 visit to the Lakshadweep Islands. This led to a significant boycott campaign against Maldives holidays and Maldives resorts, spearheaded by Indian netizens and celebrities, which demanded either an official apology from the state or the removal of the officials involved.


Despite these tensions, Maldives’ President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has stated that the Maldives aims to stand firm, rejecting any notion of being bullied into submission. This geopolitical strain comes without an official apology from the Maldivian government, signaling a cooling of relations with India, a long-term ally, and a critical market for Maldives tourism, including Maldives all-inclusive packages and resort stays.


Despite assertions from some Maldivian officials dismissing the potential for economic fallout, statistics tell a different story. India, having been the top source market for Maldives tourism since 2020, saw a dramatic decline in tourists, with arrivals from India dropping by 33% compared to the previous year.


This decline poses a significant threat to the Maldivian economy, particularly to luxury hotels in the Maldives and those offering Maldives packages. The Maldives has traditionally relied on Indian tourists during the off-peak season, filling the gap left by European travellers. Industry experts now predict potential losses of up to $2 billion, with travel agencies and operators experiencing an 80% reduction in revenue from Indian bookings.


Prominent travel agencies like Lets Go Maldives and Travel Connection Maldives highlight the diverse demographics of Indian travellers, from affluent to budget-conscious, making India a crucial market for the Maldives. The decline in Indian tourists is felt across the sector, impacting revenue and occupancy rates, especially during the peak summer season.


The boycott has also affected influencer tourism, a significant driver of Maldives tourism, as celebrities such as Rajnikanth, Ajay Devgn, and others have previously showcased their Maldives holidays on social media, influencing their followers to explore the destination.


As the Maldives seeks to navigate this challenging period, experts stress the importance of mending ties with India and initiating positive PR campaigns to restore the nation’s image among potential Indian travellers. The relationship between these two South Asian neighbours remains critical for the long-term sustainability of Maldives tourism.



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