Maldives controversy : The growth in India’s outbound travel could result in a greater intersection of tourism with geopolitics, suggests CAPA India.

Social media calls for a boycott of the Maldives following “insulting” remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi by three Maldivian deputy ministers highlight the increasing likelihood of travel and tourism becoming entangled in geopolitical and economic matters as India’s outbound travel continues to grow, according to aviation consultancy CAPA India.

“The current situation underscores how tourism can be entwined with geopolitical and economic affairs, particularly when a destination heavily relies on key source markets. India is poised to become increasingly influential as one of those source markets,” noted CAPA India.

The consultancy anticipates a rapid annual growth rate of 15 percent in outbound travel by Indians until the end of this decade. CAPA India acknowledged the swift news cycle of social media, which swiftly moves on “to the next controversy,” suggesting that the actual impact of boycott calls on travel may be “ephemeral.” However, CAPA India emphasized that the negative sentiment could have a lasting effect if it escalates to a point where Indian travelers genuinely feel unwelcome in the Maldives.

Referring to data provided by the Maldivian tourism ministry, CAPA India expressed concern over the potential repercussions of the controversy on the country’s tourism industry. India emerged as the largest source market for Maldives in 2023, constituting 11.1 percent of the total arrivals. Despite the Maldives taking action against the three ministers by suspending them, social media in India is filled with appeals to boycott the tourism-dependent island nation as a holiday destination.


At least one major online travel booking portal–EaseMyTrip–has suspended the sale of flight tickets to the Maldives. There are close to 60 flights per week between India and Maldives, of which, Indian carriers operate around 50 flights. IndiGo, Air India, Vistara, and Air India Express currently operate flights between India and Maldives. So far, no Indian carrier has indicated changes to its Maldives schedule due to the controversy.

“In this case, the calls for a boycott in India have been led by public opinion. A similar popular groundswell was seen in China with Thailand in 2018 (following the capsizing of a tourist vessel off the coast of Phuket in 2018) and to Malaysia in 2014 (following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370),” CAPA India said.

India is the largest source market for many destinations, especially in its neighborhood, including Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan, as well as Dubai. And it ranks in the top five for several others, such as Thailand and Singapore, CAPA India said, adding that more countries are likely to join their ranks in time as outbound travel by Indians grows further.

“And incidents, such as that with the Maldives over the weekend, may occur with others in the future. As and when that happens, national pride and interests should always be safeguarded. But at the same time, it will be important that all stakeholders respond in such circumstances in a measured and collected manner, to ensure that the aviation and tourism industries do not become reflexive bargaining chips,” the consultancy said.



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