Maldives Row: Bookings Drop Amid ‘Derogatory Remarks,’ No Flight Cancellations Yet

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Introduction: The picturesque Maldives, a popular travel destination for Indians, is facing a turbulence of sorts as derogatory remarks by some Maldives ministers against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi trigger a drop in bookings. While calls for boycotting the island nation have gained traction on social media, domestic airlines have not taken the drastic step of reducing flights to the Maldives. Here’s the latest on the unfolding situation.

Booking Hit After Derogatory Remarks: The travel industry has witnessed a significant impact on bookings to the Maldives after the controversial remarks by Maldivian ministers. Despite the online backlash and calls for boycotting the Maldives as a travel destination, domestic airlines have not canceled flights to the island nation.

Airlines Monitor the Situation: Vistara’s Chief Commercial Officer, Deepak Rajawat, stated on Monday that the airline has not canceled any flights to the Maldives yet. He emphasized that the situation is evolving, and they will closely monitor demand in the coming weeks before making decisions. Similarly, sources from IndiGo noted that while bookings have dropped, there have been no cancellations of flights to the Maldives.

Mixed Responses from the Travel Industry: The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) reported a decline in new travel enquiries for the Maldives, but no cancellations have been recorded. Online travel aggregator EaseMyTrip has taken a proactive step by halting flight bookings to the island nation. The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has also urged trade associations to boycott the Maldives, suggesting alternative destinations like Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bali, Phuket, etc.

Interest in Lakshadweep Surges: Interestingly, Lakshadweep has witnessed a surge in interest, with a 3,400% increase in searches on MakeMyTrip following Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit. Ixigo also reported a significant spike of 2,900% in travel search queries for the island.

Business as Usual for Airlines: Despite the drop in bookings, domestic carriers continue with their regular flight schedules to the Maldives. This week, there are a total of 48 flights to the Maldives, with IndiGo leading with 28 flights, followed by Vistara and SpiceJet with seven each, and Air India with six.

Tourism Vital for Maldives: Tourism stands as the largest foreign exchange earner for the Maldives, with a target of 2 million arrivals in 2024. Indian tourists were the highest among visitors to the Maldives until December 2023, according to data from the country’s tourism ministry.

Conclusion: As the Maldives grapples with the aftermath of derogatory remarks, the travel industry remains on edge. While domestic airlines maintain their flight schedules, the impact on bookings suggests that the situation is far from business as usual. The unfolding scenario underscores the delicate nature of diplomatic ties and their repercussions on the tourism sector.

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