Amid growing outrage over the provocation from the ministers of Maldives, which has, after the recent polls, taken an anti-India position, travel portals reported a massive surge in search for idyllic Indian destinations like Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands by potential holidayers. The campaign against Maldives appears to be driven by sheer fury, considering that Lakshadweep does not have the infrastructure to host a large number of tourists.
Lakshadweep Vs Maldives Row: MEA summons Maldives envoy
Travel agencies: Too early to comment on cancellations
Online travel agency MakeMyTrip said it had “observed a 3,400% increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since PM Modi’s visit”. Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) issued an “appeal to boycott Maldives” while travel portal EaseMyTrip said it had suspended all flight bookings to the island nation “in solidarity” with India, making the retaliation against the comments look like undeclared non-state economic sanction on the island nation for which the money spent by Indian tourists, the largest from any country, has been a big source of revenue.
Travel industry veteran Subhash Goyal, who heads ICC’s aviation and tourism committee, appealed to Indian trade associations to “stop promoting Maldives” and divert “such queries to Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands”. That did not seem to matter, with Goyal even suggesting that other destinations such as Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bali and Phuket should be promoted at Maldives’s cost.
Maldives row: EaseMyTrip CEO Nishant Pitti suspends all Maldives flight bookings, share prices rise
He urged Indian carriers to suspend flights to Maldives and asked Indian hotel companies to invest in Lakshadweep “for better returns”. His STC Travels has stopped selling Maldives packages and tickets.
The day started with senior MEA officials discussing the current situation in ties with Maldives high commissioner Ibrahim Shaheeb, underlining its position that it found the ministers’ behaviour unacceptable. There was no readout of the meeting and official sources refrained from confirming that Shaheeb had been summoned, as some reports had claimed.
“There was a meeting and the Indian side expressed its concerns again but to say that he was summoned is unnecessary,” said a source. A day earlier, India had registered a strong protest with Male. The Maldivian media reported on Monday that government had summoned Indian high commissioner Munu Mahawar.
The Indian mission clarified that Mahawar had gone to the foreign ministry for a “pre-arranged” meeting with ambassador at large Ali Mohamed to discuss bilateral ties. Maldives had said Sunday that the comments by the suspended ministers did not reflect government’s views.
The meetings in Delhi and Male are seen as efforts by both sides to prevent further worsening of the situation, which continues to inflame public feelings on social media, even seeing calls by Indian celebrities to boycott Maldives.
Amitabh Bachchan was the latest to join the chorus. Sharing a post by former cricketer Virendra Sehwag on X, he said, “Viru paji… this is so relevant and in the right spirit of our land. Our own are the very best. I have been to Lakshadweep and Andamans and they are such astonishingly beautiful locations, stunning waters, beaches, and the underwater experience is simply unbelievable.”
Airlines and travel agencies said it was too early to comment on cancellations for Maldives.
“People who have already paid will face cancellations if they don’t go. But fresh enquiries have almost dropped for now,” said a Delhi-based travel agent. EaseMyTrip Nishant Pitti, meanwhile, said, “Embark on a journey… to discover the enchanting beauty of Ayodhya and the pristine allure of Lakshadweep. Immerse yourself in rich culture and breathtaking landscapes. Say no to Maldives’s bookings and explore the wonders of Ayodhya and Lakshadweep.”