Lakshadweep tourism trends amid Maldives boycott hashtags. Here’s how businesses are reacting

India Inc calls upon businesses to boycott Maldives and divert tourism enquiries to Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Lakshadweep Maldives controversy

In the wake of trending #BoycottMaldives hashtags, the independent island nation is witnessing a downturn in visitor interest. Social media is ablaze with boycott campaigns against traveling to the Maldives, prompting the serene archipelago of Lakshadweep to gain traction as an emerging alternative for tourists seeking unspoiled beaches and tranquil landscapes. The unexpected turn of events in the travel industry has sparked intrigue into how businesses in India are responding to the shifting tourism landscape.

The Maldives’ tourism setback can be traced back to derogatory remarks made by now-suspended ministers against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following his recent visit to Lakshadweep.

In response to the online #BoycottMaldives movement, EaseMyTrip has taken an early stand by suspending all flight bookings to the Maldives. Nishant Pitti, Founder and CEO, announced this decision on X, expressing solidarity with the nation.

Another Indian Insuretech platform, InsuranceDekho, has joined in by halting the sale of travel insurance to the Maldives, citing support for national interests.

Yajur Mahendru, product head at InsuranceDekho, shared on LinkedIn, “It’s time to explore our own our island treasures, such as the beautiful Lakshadweep, that beckon with unparalleled beauty and charm,” he added.

Thrillophilia a travel experience provider, has also announced decision to offer complete support and 100 per cent refunds to customers opting to cancel their upcoming trips to the Maldives.

“Rooted in our philosophy to create standout travel experiences, we recognise the impact of recent misguided comments on sentiments surrounding travel to the Maldives. Hence, in response to the cancellation requests received, Thrillophilia has announced a 100 per cent refund for all Maldives tours booked with the platform for the upcoming months. Our priority is to ensure the satisfaction, and peace of mind of our customers, reaffirming the company’s focus towards a customer-centric approach.” states the company.

Simultaneously, the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has called on all tour and flight operators to boycott the Maldives, redirecting focus towards Lakshadweep and the Andaman Islands. Subhash Goyal, Chairman of the Aviation & Tourism Committee at ICC, urged major tourism associations to reconsider their Maldives engagements “in view of the anti-India feelings expressed by the Ministers of Maldives.”

“Please divert all such enquiries to Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, which are even better than Maldives in many ways and other destinations which can be promoted in the Indian Ocean area are Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bali, Phuket etc,” Goyal added.

Notably, it’s not just Indian businesses responding; the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has also condemned the derogatory comments made by deputy ministers on social media platforms. MATI released a statement expressing strong disapproval and emphasising India’s historical significance as a close neighbor and ally.

Jump in search related to Lakshadweep

Taking advantage of the shifting trends, online travel company MakeMyTrip announced the launch of a ‘Beaches of India’ campaign following a remarkable 3,400 per cent surge in searches related to Lakshadweep after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the island.

“We have observed a 3,400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since Honorable PM’s visit,” the travel company posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This interest in Indian beaches has inspired us to launch a ‘Beaches of India’ campaign on the platform with offers and discounts to encourage Indian travellers to explore country’s stunning beaches. Keep watching this space!.”

Maldives tourism dips

The diplomatic row may have a major impact on the tourism sector in Maldives, with cancelling of flights and hotel bookings, as per various media reports. The repercussions of this fallout are being meticulously analyzed across different facets of the industry.

Madhav Oza, Director of Blue Star Air Travel Services, sheds light on the impact, stating, “In an overall analysis, let’s first delve into a sector-specific examination. If we look at India-Maldives direct flights,
there are 7 to 8 such flights across the country, with Mumbai hosting 3 direct flights. According to my analysis, the direct flight capacity from India is around 1200 to 1300 passengers per day, and this is likely to significantly impact expectations, leading to a cancellation rate of 20 to 30 percent in bookings. People are grappling with concerns about whether they should proceed with their travel plans.”

Oza also notes that celebrity statements across India have heightened apprehensions, with the prevailing love and respect for Prime Minister Modi being cited as reasons. He anticipates that current bookings may face cancellations in the range of 15 to 20 percent.

“Looking ahead, forward bookings are expected to be severely affected. Consequently, people are exploring alternative destinations such as Lakshadweep or Andaman Nicobar, or even considering
international options. The evolving scenario prompts a reconsideration of travel plans for many individuals” he added.

Meanwhile, Mohan Vinod, President of the Association of Tour Operators Andaman and Nicobar Islands and State BJP Vice President,echoes the sentiment, highlighting the beauty and cleanliness of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands compared to the Maldives.

Over the years, Maldives has become a sought-after tourist destination, particularly popular among Indian travellers. If data from the Maldives Tourism Ministry is taken into consideration, it reveals that Indian tourists constituted the highest number of visitors to the country as of December 2023, with a total of 209,198 visitors, surpassing other nations, with Russia closely following at 209,146 visitors.

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