KOLKATA: Tourists’ bookings for Maldives – a favourite for many Kolkatans – have dipped, and many are keeping their scheduled plans on hold, amidst the row triggered by a group of Maldivian ministers ridiculing PM Narendra Modi, the Indian government summoning Male’s envoy and some industry bodies and travel companies issuing a “boycott Maldives” call.

Travel agents in Kolkata said queries for Indian island destinations, like Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, have surged following the incident. However, they said there have been few cancellations as tourists are aware of the lack of infrastructure at Indian island destinations.


“For the last two days, many have been rescheduling their trips to Maldives. While booked trips for summer haven’t been cancelled, everyone is asking us to keep bookings on hold,” said Manav Soni, chairman, Travel Agents Association of India (east).

According to industry sources, around 2.1 lakh Indians visited Maldives in 2023. A large chunk was from Bengal. The figure was more than 2.4 lakh in 2022 and over 2.1 lakh in 2021. Maldives was also one of the few countries open for international tourists during the pandemic and nearly 63,000 Indians visited the country in that period. Although there is no direct connectivity between Kolkata and Male, there are 58 weekly flights between India and the Maldives, operated by IndiGo, Vistara and Air India from Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai.

Online booking platform Ease My Trip has decided to suspend all Maldives bookings while the Indian Chamber of Commerce issued a statement on Monday, appealing to members of trade associations to stop promoting Maldives. “We haven’t seen any immediate cancellation, but our agents are keeping a close watch on the situation,” said Anil Punjabi, national committee member, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) (east).
Maldives’ loss has been a gain for Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Diu. On social media, MakeMyTrip said it had observed a 3,400% increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since PM Modi’s visit. The company did not comment on the impact on bookings to the Maldives.
“Regardless of the impact on Maldives, Lakshadweep has been a certain winner from this controversy. But what it lacks is the right infrastructure to accommodate a large number of tourists,” said an official of a travel booking portal.

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