Social Media Posts by Maldivian Officials May Lead to Millions in Lost Tourism Revenue: Calls for Boycott from Indian Travelers Intensify

Social Media Posts by Maldivian Officials Spark Calls for Boycott, Threaten Millions in Tourism Revenue

Introduction

Social media posts by Maldivian officials may cost the country millions in tourism revenue, as calls by Indian travelers to boycott the island nation intensify. Ankit Chaturvedi, vice president and global head of marketing at the India-based travel software company Rategain, stated that there has been a 40% drop in bookings over the last two days. This decline is significant because weekends are typically busy for bookings. This decrease in bookings follows a diplomatic row that started after a series of posts appeared on Twitter on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account. The posts, featuring him snorkeling and promoting Lakshadweep, were seen as an attempt to divert tourists from the Maldives.

Consequences of the Boycott

As reports of canceled trips to the Maldives by Indian travelers surface, EaseMyTrip, a prominent Indian travel booking website, has announced the suspension of flight bookings from India to the Maldives. Travel agents in India are also canceling bookings, removing Maldives-related content from their websites, and recommending alternative destinations like Lakshadweep, the Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, or Sri Lanka. This dispute has brought attention to Lakshadweep, a little-known scenic chain of islands similar to the Maldives, but it is the Maldives that has been the top destination for Indian travelers. In 2023, India accounted for the largest number of arrivals, followed by Russia and China.

Impact on Indian Travel Industry

With the absence of Chinese international travelers, Indians have emerged as the powerhouse of the regional travel industry and are expected to be the fourth largest global travel spenders by 2030. If the #BoycottMaldives movement continues, it could result in significant losses for the Maldives. While it is difficult to estimate the exact losses, last year India contributed $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives.

The Trigger

The blame for this debacle has been placed on Modi’s posts, despite the fact that they did not explicitly mention the Maldives. The Maldives has lost favor in India since the election of President Mohamed Muizzu in 2023. Muizzu campaigned on an “India out” policy and chose China for his first official state visit, seen as a snub to India. Supporters of the Maldives, unhappy with comparisons to Lakshadweep, initiated the conflict by making negative comments about India’s resorts and hospitality, prompting Maldivian Deputy Ministers to insult Modi on Twitter. The Foreign Minister of Maldives, Moosa Zameer, distanced the country from these comments, stating that they do not reflect the official position of the Maldivian government. The three officials responsible for the inflammatory posts have been suspended.

Implications for the Travel Industry

This incident highlights the vulnerability of the travel industry to local geopolitical affairs and ongoing conflicts in other regions. While the impact on Lakshadweep’s tourism industry remains uncertain, the calls for domestic travel within India are expected to have a longer-lasting effect. Hashtags like #ExploreIndianIslands are gaining traction online, with travelers and Bollywood celebrities endorsing domestic travel within India.

Conclusion

Although the boycott of the Maldives may pass quickly as social media outrage often does, the push for domestic travel within India is likely to have a lasting impact. The government has made it a priority, and the support from influential figures in Bollywood and everyday travelers will contribute to its success.

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