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Amid diplomatic row, India drops to 5th place in Maldives tourism rankings after holding No.1 spot in 2023

The Maldives has undergone a noticeable change in its tourist demographics in recent weeks, highlighted by data from the island nation's tourism ministry showing a substantial decrease in Indian visitors, who have moved from the third to the fifth largest group.

Amid diplomatic row, India drops to 5th place in Maldives tourism rankings after holding No.1 spot in 2023 snt
First Published Jan 30, 2024, 10:31 AM IST

The Maldives, renowned for its pristine beaches and turquoise waters, has witnessed a remarkable transformation in its tourist landscape over the past few weeks. Recent data released by the island nation's tourism ministry paints a picture of shifting visitor demographics, particularly concerning a notable decline in Indian arrivals—a development closely tied to evolving diplomatic relations.

As of January 28, official statistics reveal a significant drop in Indian visitors, once the largest tourist group in the Maldives. With India slipping from the top spot to the fifth largest group, the dynamics of tourism in the archipelago are undergoing a profound change, reflecting the latest twists in diplomatic ties between the two nations.

Also read: Maldives Opposition to seek impeachment of President Mohd Muizzu


Based on official data from the Maldivian government, here is the ranking of countries in terms of arrivals to the archipelago:

1. Russia: 18,561 arrivals (10.6% market share, Rank 2 in 2023)
2. Italy: 18,111 arrivals (10.4% market share, Rank 6 in 2023)
3. China: 16,529 arrivals (9.5% market share, Rank 3 in 2023)
4. UK: 14,588 arrivals (8.4% market share, Rank 4 in 2023)
5. India: 13,989 arrivals (8.0% market share, Rank 1 in 2023)
6. Germany: 10,652 arrivals (6.1% market share)
7. USA: 6,299 arrivals (3.6% market share, Rank 7 in 2023)
8. France: 6,168 arrivals (3.5% market share, Rank 8 in 2023)
9. Poland: 5,109 arrivals (2.9% market share, Rank 14 in 2023)
10. Switzerland: 3,330 arrivals (1.9% market share, Rank 10 in 2023)

This dramatic shift in tourist demographics stems from recent diplomatic upheavals between India and the Maldives, notably sparked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Lakshadweep on January 2. The fallout from this visit, coupled with escalating tensions, has precipitated a decline in Indian tourist numbers—a stark departure from the country's dominant presence in Maldivian tourism.

The controversy intensified when a Maldives minister accused India of targeting the nation, igniting debates on the competitive landscape of beach tourism. President Mohamed Muizzu's tenure, marked by a strategic pivot towards closer ties with China, has further strained relations with India, prompting a shift from the previous "India first" approach.

Also read: Turmoil in Muizzu’s Maldives: Physical altercation erupts in Parliament amid cabinet approval vote (WATCH)

The escalating tensions culminated in impeachment proceedings against President Muizzu initiated by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The opposition party alleges a pro-China stance, exacerbated by the docking of a Chinese spy ship in the capital Male. Calls for the withdrawal of Indian troops stationed in the Maldives have heightened, casting a shadow over bilateral relations.

President Muizzu's anti-India rhetoric has stirred concerns about the long-term ramifications on the Maldives' development trajectory. The strategic significance of the Maldives in India's regional initiatives, including 'SAGAR' and the 'Neighbourhood First Policy,' underscores the complexities of the diplomatic rift.

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