New Delhi | From being the top tourist group visiting Maldives, Indians have slipped to the fifth position in the last three weeks, amid a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Male, according to official data.
Official figures released by the Maldives Ministry of Tourism showed a notable drop in the number of Indian travellers visiting the island nation.
Over 2 lakh Indians visited Maldives annually in the last three years, the highest from any country post-COVID 19 pandemic, the data showed.
However, the travel hotspot for Indians is now facing a backlash after three ministers from the Maldives cabinet made derogatory comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi following his visit to Lakshadweep earlier this month.
According to the statistics, Maldives received over 1.74 lakh tourists till January 28 this year, of which only 13,989 were Indians.
Russia topped the chart with 18,561 tourists from the country visiting Maldives, followed by Italy (18,111), China (16,529) and UK (14,588).
Germany is at the sixth spot followed by USA, France, Poland and Switzerland.
Over 17 lakh tourists visited the island nation in 2023, of which maximum were Indians (2,09,198) followed by Russians (2,09,146) and Chinese (1,87,118).
The number of Indian visitors to Maldives was more than 2.4 lakh in 2022 and over 2.11 lakh in 2021. The Maldives was also one of the few countries open for international tourists during the pandemic and nearly 63,000 Indians visited that country during that period.
In 2018, India was the fifth-largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives with 90,474 visitors. In 2019, India reached the second spot with 1.66 lakh Indians visiting that country.
Many netizens on social media claimed that they have cancelled their scheduled trips to the Maldives because of the row, with the hashtag "Boycott Maldives" trending on X for several days this month.
Joining the 'boycott campaign', EaseMyTrip, an online travel aggregator, had announced it has suspended all flight bookings to the island nation on its website "in solidarity" with India.
Meanwhile, the government of the Maldives had suspended three of its deputy ministers after they criticised Modi for his post on X following his visit to Lakshadweep, inferring that it was an attempt to project the Union Territory as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives.
The Maldivian foreign ministry had said that the government is aware of the "derogatory remarks" made on social media platforms against foreign leaders and that their personal views do not represent the country's position.
Situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is home to nearly 1,200 tiny coral islands that stretch along a length of 871 kilometres. From personalised spa treatments to adventure sports activities to world-class cuisine, the island nation offers myriad experiences, making it a great choice for visitors.
The beautiful beaches and the island experience, coupled with affordable airfare that is even cheaper than the cost of travel to some Indian cities, have been a big draw for Indian tourists.