The Maldives has, so far this year, recorded a notable 10.2 percent surge in tourist arrivals compared to the corresponding period last year, according to data released by the Ministry of Tourism.

This increase in tourist arrivals comes amid diplomatic tensions and calls from some Indian influencers for a boycott of the Maldives. Despite these challenges, the Maldives has welcomed 96,077 tourists as of 16 January, with daily average arrivals recorded at 6,005.

Russia currently leads the source market with 11,778 arrivals, accounting for 12.3 percent. Italy follows closely with 11,094 arrivals, making up 11.5 percent of the market share. The United Kingdom and India rank third and fourth, respectively, with Germany rounding out the top five source markets.

The government recently announced ambitious plans to make China the top source market this year. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, China was recognised as the Maldives’ largest tourism market. Although Chinese tourist arrivals currently rank sixth, efforts are underway to attract more Chinese travellers, and the numbers are expected to grow. 

Hong Kong Airlines recommenced direct flights to the Maldives on Friday, and charter flights between various Chinese destinations and the Maldives are set to begin next month. Wang Lixin, the Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, recently hinted at the possibility of introducing commercial flights, subject to an increase in demand.

Following calls for a boycott of the Maldives on social media, the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) surveyed the repercussions of recent online events on hotel reservations from the Indian market. The Hotel Reservations and Impact Study indicated “limited cancellations and minimal slowdown following a recent incident,” said MATATO.

“The analysis of January’s pickup trends aligns with the natural decline observed in arrivals and booking trends during the same period in previous years,” it added.

India has been the primary source market for the Maldives since 2020, undergoing significant expansion over the past half-decade. From 2022 to 2023, the Maldives observed a contraction in the Indian market, with the number of arrivals decreasing from 241,369 to 209,198, signifying a 13.3 percent decline. Notwithstanding this downturn, India persevered in its role as the predominant source market in 2023, contributing a total of 209,198 tourists. Russia was a close second, with 209,146 tourists, a marginal difference of 52.

It is noteworthy to mention these two markets’ distinct tourist profiles. In addition to European source markets, tourists from Russia were characterised by extended stays and a propensity for higher expenditure. In contrast, Indian tourists exhibited more budget-conscious behaviour, typically opting for shorter stays. This dichotomy underscores the Maldives’ ability to cater to diverse tourist preferences and budgets.