Amid the row between India and the Maldives over beach tourism, the Maldivian tourism body for tour operators has called on the Indian-based travel booking platform EaseMyTrip to re-start flight bookings to the island nation.
The Maldives Association of Tour and Travel Operators (MATATO), on Tuesday, asked the platform to disregard the regrettable and derogatory comments made by the ministers on social media platforms.
In the statement they said, “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, affecting the lives and well-being of many.”
The organization has said that the Indian market remains an indispensable force in the success of the Maldivian Tourism sector.
According to the data released by the Maldives Tourism Ministry, a total of 17, 57,939 tourists arrived in the island nation till December 13 of last year, an increase of 12.6 per cent compared to the previous year.
The MATATO also urged all parties involved to refrain from contributing to the divisiveness through hateful comments. “We implore all stakeholders to embrace messages of cooperation, understanding, and mutual respect,” they said in the official statement.
The Maldives opposition leader and the Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party, Fayyaz Ismail, on Wednesday, called for a firm stand by the government, saying that the racist comments against Indian and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were just isolated individual opinions.
Maldivian Minister of Foreign Affairs Moosa Zameer said that the remarks against foreign leaders like Narendra Modi are unacceptable and do not reflect the sentiments of the Maldives government.
The current row erupted following the comments and statements by three ministers–Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna, and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid– about Prime Minister Modi after his social media post promoting the Lakshadweep tourism. Following this, EaseMyTrip announced that they are cancelling all their flight bookings to Maldives indefinitely “in solidarity with our nation.”
The row has continued despite Muizzu suspending the ministers Sunday, with local media reporting that the Maldivian envoy was summoned to the foreign ministry in New Delhi the following day.
The Maldives’ main tourism industry body issued a statement strongly condemning the ministers for their remarks and stressing the economic importance of Indian visitors.
“It is our sincere wish that the close relationship between our two nations endures for generations to come and as such, we refrain from actions or speech that may have any negative impact on our good relationship,” it said.
Tourism makes up nearly one-third of the economy in the archipelago nation, known for its upscale resorts and celebrity visitors, with Indians making up the largest share of foreign arrivals.