New Delhi: Nearly a month after the “boycott Maldives” trend on social media following a major diplomatic row that erupted between India and Maldives, China overtook New Delhi as the largest source market as more tourists thronged to the Island nation following the visit of President Mohamed Muizzu to Beijing.
Earlier this month, an unplanned trip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lakshadweep brought tensions between the two neighbouring nations as some of the Maldivian ministers criticised the Indian leader for intriguing the place. This triggered a fight on social media, where the Indian users called to boycott the Maldives and insisted on visiting Lakshadweep which has similar geographical dynamics.
India slips to fifth position
Thousands of Indian tourists who had scheduled trips to Male had announced on social media the cancellations of flights and hotels, calling the decision in favour of national interest. Before the row erupted, tourists from India were the top visitors among the list of top 10 countries that throng for holiday trips. However, following tensions, India slipped four positions and is now placed in fifth position.
According to the weekly data released by the Maldivian Tourism Ministry, a total of 2,09,198 Indians had visited Maldives in 2022– contributing 11.1 per cent of the market share. Meanwhile, the latest data released by the ministry claimed China visitors clinched the third position with 12,299– accounting for 8.5 per cent of the market share. Whereas, India slipped to fifth position with 11,424 travellers and 7.8 per cent market share in the Maldivian travel industry.
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Diplomatic victory of China
The data could be apprehended as the diplomatic victory of Beijing as the rise in Chinese tourists could be linked with the recent visit of President Muizzu. During his visit, Muizzu urged his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to send more tourists to Male. “China was our (Maldives’) number one market pre-Covid, and it is my request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position,” according to a readout posted on his official website.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, China held the top spot with over 2.80 lakh tourists but was struggling to revive its domestic and foreign tourism due to a nearly four-year lockdown policy and the continued slowdown of its economy. As a result, Chinese tourists who travelled abroad for holidays in millions before COVID were restricting themselves given the economic slowdown.