Maldives Tries to Win Back Indian Tourists As Arrivals Fall 40%

Skift Take

While Maldives enjoys record-breaking arrivals, its tourism companies aren’t about to let the Indian market keep falling. They’re on a mission to reverse the trend.

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators is determined to increase Indian arrivals to the island destination and is taking steps to achieve this.

“Indian arrivals to the Maldives have gone down by almost 40%,” said Abdulla Ghiyas, the association’s president, in an exclusive interview with Skift.

In early January, #BoycottMaldives started trending in Indian social media following a diplomatic dispute between the two countries. Indians accused Maldivian politicians of making disparaging remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As a result, India, which was the number 2 source market for Maldives, has now fallen to number 6. India’s share of visitors had been almost 11% – it has shrunk to 5.6%.

Promotions in Indian Cities

Ghiyas said the association will be hosting roadshows in 3 Indian cities in July and confirmed to Skift that one of the cities would be Bengaluru.

The association also plans to engage with Indian social media influencers. “We also want to see how we can work with the tourism board in Maldives as we have partnered with them in the past as well. There are talks that the tourism board is also planning of doing something in India,” Ghiyas said.

At the July roadshows, he said he’s keen to look at cities that have direct connectivity with Maldives.

Ghiyas expressed a desire to have conducted the roadshow earlier, noting that May is when Indian outbound travel peaks. However, he mentioned plans for another round of roadshows towards the end of the year, aiming to include Tier 2 cities. “Even if they lack direct flights to the Maldives, these cities would represent an important market for us,” he said.

Source: Ministry of Tourism, Maldives

Maldives has so far received (from January 1-April 15) 693,867 tourists, up from 606,395 arrivals for the same period last year, as per the latest data from the Maldives tourism ministry.

China is the top source market for the island destination, followed by UK and Russia.

Between January 1-April 15, almost 39,000 Indians visited Maldives, a decline of almost 40%, compared to the 64,250 arrivals for the same period last year.

“We might not talk immediately about the growth scenario, but I would definitely like to see the 40% decline narrow down,” Ghiyas said.

Can’t Ignore India

While Maldives has experienced record-breaking tourism arrivals so far, Ghiyas said it still needs India. “There are properties and resorts that rely heavily on the Indian market, which have been severely affected. This will hurt us in the long term and that is why we have decided to engage with the India market.”

Aminath Suzan, CEO of Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators, pointed to cultural ties, such as similarities in food, language, and pop culture. “We must ensure that unrelated matters do not negatively impact the bond, for which we have dedicated years and built this alliance.”

The association members also recently met with Munu Mahawar, the Indian high commissioner in Maldives, to collaborate closely with his office to boost tourism initiatives.

Dubbing the meeting with Mahawar “positive,” Ghiyas said the high commission has offered assistance to the association. “Once we have a concrete plan, we will definitely follow up with the High Commission and share our plans.”

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