NEW DELHI: A day after three Maldives ministers were suspended for their derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his Lakshadweep tweet, the tourism industry in the island nation took a hit with several Indians claiming that they have cancelled their bookings.
Despite the Maldives government distancing itself from the remarks and taking action against the three deputy ministers – Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha and Hassan Zihan – the backlash spilled into the second day on Monday.
Celebrities, sportspersons, and politicians are now actively promoting scenic Indian destinations on various social media platforms, encouraging Indian tourists to explore local beaches instead of opting for the Maldives.
Indian tourists go ‘vocal for local’
With #BoycottMaldives trending on X throughout Sunday, Indian travel portals said that they have observed a tremendous surge in searches for Lakshadweep.
On Monday, MakeMyTrip said there has been a whopping 3,400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for the Indian island destination ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.
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MakeMyTrip added that the surge in interest in Indian beaches has inspired it to launch a ‘Beaches of India’ campaign on the platform with offers and discounts to encourage Indian travellers to explore the country’s stunning beaches.
Meanwhile, another online booking portal EaseMyTrip said it has has opted to halt all flight bookings to Maldives amid the row.
“In solidarity with our nation, @EaseMyTrip has suspended all Maldives flight bookings #TravelUpdate #SupportingNation,” the founder and CEO, Nishant Pitti wrote on X.
Notably, several tour operators told ANI that there have been “no new inquiries by people” for visits to Maldives.
However, the operators denied reports of mass cancellations, saying, “If a person has paid an advance for plane tickets and hotels, they will not cancel it.”
Vistara to monitor demand for flights
Full service carrier Vistara on Monday said it will monitor the demand for flights between India and Maldives as the “situation is evolving right now”.
Airline’s chief commercial officer Deepak Rajawat said it has not cancelled anything as of now and will monitor the demand for flights.
“The situation is very evolving right now… we will have to monitor in a week or so,” he said at a briefing in response to queries about the Maldives situation.
Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet also operate flights to the Maldives. There were no comments from the three airlines on the current situation.
Maldives government goes into damage control
After high drama on Sunday, the Maldivian government on Monday told India’s high commissioner Munu Muhawar that the derogatory remarks made by the now suspended ministers do not represent its views.
The Indian High Commissioner had a pre-arranged meeting Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed, the Ambassador-at-Large at the foreign ministry.
A top Maldivian government official said that during the meeting, Naseer made it clear that the remarks do not reflect the views of the Maldivian government.
He also reaffirmed Maldives’ continued support for its neighbour, the Sun Online reported.
The Maldivian foreign ministry said the government is aware of “derogatory remarks” on social media platforms against foreign leaders and that the personal views do not represent its position.
Maldives foreign minister Moosa Zameer called the remarks “unacceptable”.
Earlier in the day, Maldives envoy to India, Ibrahim Shaheeb was seen leaving the ministry of external affairs in Delhi’s South Block. Shaheeb was seen arriving at the MEA office building and leaving a short while later.
He was summoned by the MEA over the issue.
Lakshadweep MP Faizal criticises remarks
Lakshadweep Lok Sabha MP Mohammed Faizal on Monday spoke out against the Maldives ministers’ statements and urged them to “think twice” before commenting on India’s internal matters.
“The Hon’ble Prime Minister’s remarks pertained to Lakshadweep tourism, which is entirely an internal matter of India. The comments made by Maldivian deputy ministers on this matter are unwanted and uninvited,” Faizal told news gency PTI over phone.
Faizal added that Lakshadweep is a union territory under the control of the home ministry and of course under the Prime Minister.
“When the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India speaks about its own territory and discusses the development of tourism there, it doesn’t make any sense for Maldives officials to make statements on that. It is unwanted,” Faizal said.
(With inputs from agencies)
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)