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Maldivian Ministry of Tourism states that China constitutes 11.2% market share in 2024

 

In the midst of a diplomatic dispute between the Maldives and India, official figures released on Monday reveal that Chinese tourists have surpassed Indian visitors to become the leading tourism market for the archipelago nation. According to the Maldivian Ministry of Tourism statistics as of February 4, China now holds the top position with 23,972 tourists, constituting an 11.2% market share in 2024. This marks a significant rise from its third-place position in 2023.

India, which held the top spot in 2023, has slipped to the fifth position as of Sunday, with 16,536 tourists and a 7.7% market share in 2024. This shift may be attributed to a backlash against the Maldives following derogatory remarks about India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made by three Maldivian ministers on social media. The remarks were prompted by Modi’s posts showcasing his visit to the pristine Lakshadweep Islands on India’s west coast in January.

In response to the viral remarks against Modi, social media users, including celebrities, initiated calls to boycott tourism in the Maldives in favor of exploring domestic destinations. Some travel companies reported cancellations of scheduled trips to the Maldives by Indian tourists. President Muizzu, who assumed office in November and is perceived as pro-China, formally requested India to withdraw 88 military personnel from the Maldives by March 15, citing a “strong mandate” from the Maldivians.

During Muizzu’s visit to Beijing in January, discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang focused on ways to increase the number of Chinese tourists visiting the tourism-dependent country. China also announced a comprehensive mutual visa cooperation agreement with 23 countries, including the Maldives, on January 31.

As per statistics from the Maldives Tourism Ministry, the island nation welcomed over 1.7 million tourists in 2023. Among them, Indians comprised more than 209,198 visitors, followed closely by Russians with 209,146 and China with 187,118. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in China in 2019, China held the position of the primary source of foreign tourists. In 2022, the number of Indian visitors exceeded 240,000, and in 2021, over 211,000 Indians traveled to the Maldives.

During the pandemic, the Maldives stood out as one of the few countries open to international tourists, attracting nearly 63,000 Indian visitors. In 2022, the number of Indian tourists exceeded 240,000, and in 2021, over 211,000 Indians traveled to the Maldives. The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) acknowledged India as a consistent and significant contributor to its tourism industry, especially aiding recovery efforts during the pandemic.

As of February 4, 2024, Russia held the second spot with 21,898 tourists (10.2% market share), maintaining its 2023 ranking. Italy climbed from the sixth spot in 2023 to the third position in 2024 with 21,321 tourists (9.9% market share), and the UK, with 18,078 tourists and an 8.4% market share, retained its fourth position, according to official data.

In his first Presidential speech, President Muizzu outlined a comprehensive plan to expand the tourism sector, including establishing 20 new resorts, adding 2,800 beds, and completing the development of undeveloped resorts in 2024. He also highlighted the government’s efforts to enhance tourism services, unveiling plans for an “Asseyri Tourism” project for Addu City, featuring a seaplane hub. President Muizzu expressed optimism about the country’s tourism sector, projecting the welcoming of 2 million tourists this year for the first time. He anticipates sustained growth with an average annual increase of 10.3%, driven by the completion of Velana International Airport and the introduction of new flight routes.

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