As the number of Indian tourists to the Maldives continues to decline, the island country’s tour and travel association has reached out to India to arrest the further slide. The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) met Munu Mahawar, the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives on Monday “to explore collaborative efforts in tourism promotion”. 

The association expressed its intention to collaborate closely with the Indian High Commission to bolster tourism initiatives. “Plans are underway to launch a comprehensive roadshow across key cities in India and to facilitate influencer and media familiarisation trips to the Maldives in the forthcoming months,” it said. 

The number of Indian tourists, who ranked among the top sources for tourism for Male in the last few years, plunged after January when now three suspended ministers made derogatory remarks against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he pitched Lakshadweep as a tourist destination. The insulting comments against India and PM Modi did not go down well with a section of people and organisations, who started “BoycottMaldives” campaign on social media.

Within weeks, from being the top tourist group visiting the Maldives, Indians slipped to fifth position in the last three weeks of January. In the last three years, over 2 lakh Indians visited Maldives annually – the highest from any country post-Covid. Over 17 lakh tourists visited Maldives in 2023, of which the 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. 

As per the latest data till April 8, tourists from India to Maldives slipped to the sixth position. So far, only 36,840 tourists visited the island nation, a sharp decline compared to similar months in previous years.

Maldives’ tour association in a statement said that “India remains a vital market” for Maldivian tourism and it looks forward to partnering with prominent travel associations and industry stakeholders across India to further promote the island nation as a premier travel destination.

“The Association is confident with the support from the industry and the Government agencies, Maldives can regain the current decline in Indian tourists,” it said.  

MATATO said India’s burgeoning middle class is anticipated to spend a substantial $144 billion annually on international travel by the year 2030, drawing significant interest and investment from global players in the hospitality, airline, and tourism industries. 

According to Euromonitor, it said, the number of outbound Indian travelers is expected to double to 47 million by 2030, with their spending projected to increase from $35 billion in 2019 to an impressive $84 billion by 2030. 

“This growth trajectory positions India to ascend to the sixth-largest outbound travel market globally by 2030, trailing only China, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France.”

The association said industry reports forecast robust expansion in Indian outbound travel, with a compounded annual growth rate of 11.2 per cent through 2032, closely mirroring Euromonitor’s predictions. This surge in outbound tourism, it added, has led to a fervent pursuit of Indian tourists by top destinations such as Dubai and prominent airlines like Qatar Airways, leveraging the star power of Bollywood icons. 

In February this year, Dubai rolled out a five-year multiple-entry visa for Indians to “bolster travel between India and Dubai, to foster sustained economic collaborations and encourage tourism and business ties.” 

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