The words and policies of President Mohamed Muizzu, and some key deputy ministers, have caused losses of MVR 2.3 billion to the Maldives’ tourism industry, former Minister of Finance Ibrahim Ameer has said.

Ameer, during a press conference on Saturday, said that the Muizzu administration’s policies had disrupted age-old foreign relations, even as the state’s financial situation had deteriorated to toxic levels.

The former minister was referring to three deputy ministers, as well as other senior officials, who had insulted and criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid—all Deputy Ministers at the Ministry of Youth, Employment, Information and Arts—who had openly insulted India, and top Indian officials, have been serving paid suspensions for nearly six months now.

Several Indian social media activists, Bollywood stars, and celebrities launched a strong campaign as a result of the officials disrespecting the nation and its leaders, calling on Indians to boycott the Maldives.

While this has led to a vast reduction in visitors from India, visitor numbers from other markets have drawn record numbers to the Maldives in the first half of the year, though they are expected to decline as the country moves into its ‘off’ season.

Ameer said the number of tourists from India visiting the Maldives, as of June this year, was 47,000 less than in the previous year; costing the nation close to MVR 450 million in taxes.

The Indian market began to expand in 2019 due to the increase in flights between India and the Maldives, data from the Tourism Year Book 2023 released by the Ministry of Tourism showed. In 2019 alone, the Indian market grew by 83 percent, statistics showed.

In 2023, 264,753 Indian tourists visited the Maldives; down 6.9 percent from the previous year.

However, the current decline of the Indian segment and the negative impact on tourism as a whole, and more specifically to guesthouses, has been significant, observers say. In recent years, the Indian market has dominated occupancy of the Maldives’ resorts and guesthouses during the off-season.