MALÉ: Maldives Tourism Body’s Plea To EaseMyTrip, “Indian Brothers, Sisters”

MALÉ: Maldives Tourism Body’s Plea To EaseMyTrip, “Indian Brothers, Sisters”

MALÉ: Amid the row between India and the Maldives – triggered last week after three ministers’ comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi – a prominent Maldivian tourism body has called on India-based travel aggregator EaseMyTrip to re-open flight bookings, via its platform, to the island nation.

The Maldives Association of Tour and Travel Operators, or MATATO, on Tuesday called on EaseMyTrip to disregard the “regrettable” comments, and said they “did not reflect sentiments of Maldivians in general”. The statement, addressed to EaseMyTrip CEO Nishant Pitti, underlined the importance of Indian tourists – who have topped foreign arrivals to the country post-Covid – to the Maldivian economy.

“In expressing our heartfelt gratitude for the enduring friendship and partnership that defines the relationship between the Maldives and India, we want you to know the bonds connecting our nations transcend politics. We consider our Indian counterparts… as cherished brothers and sisters.”

Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators writes to EaseMyTrip CEO Nishant Pitti to re-open flight bookings to Maldives.

“Tourism stands as the lifeblood of the Maldives, contributing over two-thirds of our GDP and providing livelihoods to approximately 44,000 Maldivians who work in the sector. The potential adverse impact on tourism holds the power to unleash severe repercussions on our economy.”

MATATO called Indian tourists “an indispensable force in the success of the Maldivian tourism sector, providing vital support to guest houses and small to medium-sized enterprises…”

According to the Maldives Tourism Ministry, over two lakh Indians visited that country last year, and over 4.5 lakh travelled to the tropical paradise over the past two years. The Maldives was also one of the few countries open to tourists during the pandemic and nearly 63,000 Indians visited then.

MATATO also urged all to “refrain from contributing to divisiveness through hateful comments”.

The MATATO statement follows one by the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry, or MATI, which slammed the “derogatory comments” directed at Prime Minister Modi.

EaseMyTrip Suspends Maldives Bookings

On Monday EaseMyTrip suspended flight bookings via its website.

Mr Pitti, the co-founder and CEO, posted “in solidarity with our nation…” message on X, and shared a photo of Mr Modi sitting on a beach in Lakshadweep with the hashtag #ChaloLakshadweep.

In solidarity with our nation, @EaseMyTrip has suspended all Maldives flight bookings ✈️ #TravelUpdate#SupportingNation#LakshadweepTourism#ExploreIndianlslands#Lakshadweep#ExploreIndianIslands@kishanreddybjp@JM_Scindia@PMOIndia@tourismgoi@narendramodi@incredibleindia

Maldives President’s “Send More Tourists” Plea To China

President Mohamed Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, is in China till Friday for a State visit and, on Tuesday, appealed to Beijing to “intensify” efforts to send more tourists to his country.

“China was our (Maldives’) number one market pre-Covid, and it is my request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position,” he said at a meeting of business leaders in the Chinese capital.

Maldivian media later reported the two countries had signed a USD 50 million project to develop an integrated tourism zone in the Indian Ocean island.

India-Maldives Row

The India-Maldives stand-off erupted after three ministers – Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna, and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid – made critical comments about PM Modi. All three were suspended and the Maldives government called the remarks “unacceptable”, but the fury in India has not abated.

There is also pressure building on President Muizzu and the three-party ruling coalition, which faces a general election later this year. Multiple opposition MPs and political leaders have demanded he be held accountable, and even face a vote of ‘no-confidence’. Former Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla told NDTV Indians are “rightfully angry”, while ex-President Ibrahim Solih slammed “hateful language”.

The comments came after Prime Minister Modi posted, on X, photos and videos of his trip to Lakshadweep, which were seen as promoting the union territory as a rival tourist destination.

A #BoycottMaldives trend broke on X – fuelled partly by posts from Bollywood celebrities and cricketers – and there was a sharp spike in interest in the union territory.

India’s response has been measured; New Delhi summoned the Maldives envoy only on Monday, days after the row, and neither the PM nor Foreign Minister S Jaishankar have made statements yet.

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