In the face of declining tourist arrivals from India due to heightened political tensions, Tourism Minister Ibrahim Faisal has reiterated the nation’s commitment to fostering a welcoming environment for Indian visitors. He conveyed this assurance during an interview with the Press Trust of India (PTI) at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). This assertion comes when the influx of tourists from India to the Maldives has been experiencing a significant downturn.

The decrease in Indian visitors has been particularly noticeable since the inception of the Muizzu administration, which adopted an anti-India stance while still in opposition. The situation was further aggravated when three senior officials of the Muizzu administration made derogatory remarks about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sparking a social media campaign in India calling for a boycott of Maldivian tourism.

Despite the challenges, Faisal reiterated the unwavering commitment of the Maldivian government and its people to welcoming Indian tourists. He expressed a strong desire to see an increase in the number of Indian tourists visiting the Maldives.

Speaking with PTI, Faisal highlighted the enduring historical ties and shared values between India and the Maldives. The Muizzu administration is eager to strengthen its relations with the Indian government, he added.

“I am as the tourism minister, also, I want to call whole Indian market that, please be part of Maldives’ tourism. So (sic), our economy depends on tourism,” Faisal remarked.

He further noted that India’s large population represents a crucial source market for Maldivian tourism. Over the past three years, India has been the leading source market for Maldivian tourism.

However, according to statistics from the tourism ministry, the number of visitors from India has seen a sharp decline of 42 percent this year compared to the first quarter of 2023. While 73,785 Indian tourists visted the Maldives in the first quarter of 2023, the number has dwindled to 42,638 visitors during the same period this year.

While Faisal emphasises the historical relations between India and the Maldives and expresses a desire for peace and a friendly environment, these statements appear to be at odds with the actions of the Muizzu administration. Political commentators say that the expulsion of Indian military personnel and the continuation of an apparent anti-India stance have only served to exacerbate tensions between the two neighbours.