In the midst of escalating tensions between the Maldives and India, official data reveals a notable shift in tourism demographics, with Chinese visitors now outnumbering their Indian counterparts in the archipelago….reports Asian Lite News
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu on Monday forecasted that the country can attract two million tourist arrivals this year, for the first time in the history of the Maldives since the inception of its tourism industry, according to local media.
Muizzu made the statement while delivering his first presidential address at the opening sitting of the last session of the ongoing 19th Parliament on Monday morning.
The President said the expansion of Velana International Airport (VIA) would increase tourist arrivals by 10.3 per cent on average in the medium term, Xinhua news agency reported.
Muizzu added his government wants to open 20 new resorts this year, and these will create 2,827 beds.
The President said they are now identifying obstructions to the development of islands, land plots and lagoons leased for tourism development that have been halted over various reasons and exploring possible solutions.
According to official data, the Maldives recorded the arrival of more than 1.8 million tourists in 2023.
The Maldives recorded the arrivals of more than 192,000 tourists in January this year, a 11.5 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, according to the statistics released by the Tourism Ministry.
Chinese visitors outnumber Indians
In the midst of escalating tensions between the Maldives and India, official data reveals a notable shift in tourism demographics, with Chinese visitors now outnumbering their Indian counterparts in the archipelago. According to recent statistics from the Maldivian Ministry of Tourism released on February 4th, 2024, China has claimed the top spot with 23,972 tourists, marking an 11.2 percent market share, a significant rise from its third-place position in 2023. Meanwhile, India, which held the number one position in 2023, has slipped to fifth place with 16,536 tourists, constituting a 7.7 percent market share.
This shift in tourism patterns may be attributed to a diplomatic fallout triggered by derogatory remarks made against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi by three Maldivian ministers on social media. The backlash prompted calls for boycotting tourism in the Maldives, leading to cancellations of planned trips by Indian tourists and a surge in interest in domestic destinations.
President Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, has been actively engaging with Chinese officials to bolster tourism ties between the two countries. Additionally, China’s announcement of a comprehensive mutual visa cooperation agreement with 23 countries, including the Maldives, further underscores the growing influence of Chinese tourists in the region.
Despite the recent developments, the Maldives remains optimistic about its tourism sector’s future. In his inaugural presidential address, President Muizzu outlined ambitious plans to expand the industry, including the establishment of 20 new resorts, adding 2,800 beds, and developing undeveloped resort areas. He also highlighted initiatives such as the “Asseyri Tourism” project for Addu City, aimed at enhancing tourism services and infrastructure.
President Muizzu expressed confidence in the sector’s growth potential, projecting a milestone of 2 million tourists for the first time in the Maldives’ history. With anticipated annual growth rates of 10.3 percent in the medium term, driven by infrastructure developments like the Velana International Airport expansion and new flight routes, the future indeed appears promising for the Maldives’ tourism industry.
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