Maldives is currently dealing with a potential tourism boycott following derogatory remarks made by three of its officials towards India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The controversy began when Prime Minister Modi shared photos of himself enjoying Lakshadweep islands, a part of India. While Modi did not mention the neighboring Maldives, his praise for Lakshadweep could have been seen as an attempt to divert tourists away from Maldives.
Maldives Faces Tourism Boycott Over Insults to Indian PM
In response to Modi's post, three Maldivian officials serving as deputy ministers, resorted to name-calling, referring to Modi as a "clown," "terrorist," and a "puppet of Israel." These remarks sparked outrage among Indian citizens, prompting calls for a boycott of Maldives as a travel destination. Indian tourists constitute a significant portion of Maldives' tourism industry, with over 209,000 visits from India in 2023, making up 11% of the total market, as reported by CNN.
Prominent Indian figures endorsed the boycott by encouraging travelers to explore domestic destinations, specifically Lakshadweep. Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, for instance, labeled the Maldivian officials' comments as "hateful and racist" and advocated for supporting Indian tourism.
In solidarity with the boycott, Indian travel site EaseMyTrip suspended flight bookings to Maldives. The Confederation of All India Traders, a major trade body, also called on its members to halt business dealings with the Maldives until an apology or remedial measures were provided.
As per the report, the Maldivian government quickly distanced itself from the officials' remarks, suspending them and emphasizing that the comments were personal opinions and did not reflect the country's stance. This incident comes at a critical time as President Mohamed Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, embarks on a five-day visit to China, seeking to strengthen ties and expand trade agreements.
Maldives Seeks Chinese Tourism Boost Amid Diplomatic Row
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has appealed to China for increased efforts to attract more tourists to his country during his state visit to China. He described China as the Maldives' "closest" ally and praised the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which have delivered significant infrastructure developments in the Maldives.
According to NDTV World, Muizzu urged China to enhance the flow of Chinese tourists to the Maldives, noting that China was their top tourist market before the COVID-19 pandemic. This appeal comes in the wake of a diplomatic dispute involving derogatory remarks about Modi by some Maldivian ministers.
During his visit, the two countries reportedly signed a USD 50 million project to develop an integrated tourism zone in the Maldives. Despite India being the largest tourist market for the Maldives in 2023, the country seeks to regain its pre-pandemic position with China's assistance.
Before the pandemic, China held the top spot in terms of tourists visiting the Maldives. Still, its tourism industry has been hampered by a nearly four-year lockdown policy and economic slowdown. Muizzu aims to diversify the Maldives' economic base and strengthen the tourism industry while increasing economic security.
Muizzu emphasized the importance of implementing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed with China, which aims to boost bilateral trade and investments, particularly in exporting fish products to China.
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