Indian tourists in Maldives drop by one-third amid diplomatic row

MARCH 10: The number of Indian tourists visiting the Maldives has dropped by 33 per cent as compared to last year, Maldivian website Adhadhu reported, citing data from the Maldives Tourism Ministry. This comes as the diplomatic row between New Delhi and Male continues to deteriorate.

According to Tourism Ministry statistics for 2023, 41,054 Indian tourists visited the Maldives by March 4 last year. The number of Indian tourists recorded as of March 2 this year was 27,224. This was 13,830 less than last year, Maldives-based Adhadhu reported. In the same period last year, India was the second largest source market for tourists to the Maldives with a 10 per cent market share.

However, India is now in sixth place on the list with a six per cent market share. The row erupted after three Maldivian deputy ministers made derogatory comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, over his pictures from the visit to Lakshadweep. PM Modi had called for the Indian island cluster to be developed as a destination for beach tourism and promotion of domestic tourism. The matter snowballed into a major diplomatic row, with New Delhi summoning the Maldivian envoy and registering a strong protest against the viral posts.

The three deputy ministers were suspended and they remain under suspension with pay. Earlier this year, Maldives tourism industry stakeholders expressed concern as the boycott campaign in India grew momentum and gained the support of popular Indian film stars. The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) was surveyed to determine the impact of booking cancellations by Indian guests.

However, the findings were not made public, as reported by Adhadhu. India remained the top tourist market for the Maldives through 2021-23 with more than 2,00,000 tourists each year. However, China is the top market now with more than 54,000 tourist arrivals so far this year.