Indian tourists are increasingly picking Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius and the Seychelles over the Maldives to spend their vacations in the coming months, as they avoid the archipelago nation following the recent political developments there.
Despite the Maldivian government’s assurance that the country was safe to visit and that the tourist hotspots and airports were not affected by the developments in the capital, fewer people are preferring to visit the country, travel and tour operators said. That has led to a 20-40% increase in bookings to the other beach destinations in the past two weeks, they said.
President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who is cracking down on the opposition, declared a state of emergency in the country on February 5. Since then, media reports said, hundreds of tourists have cancelled their hotel bookings.
After the political unrest erupted there, India’s foreign ministry issued an advisory asking Indians to avoid non-essential travel to the southern neighbour. Airlines like SpiceJet and Air India last week agreed to waive ticket change and cancellation charges for flights going to and from the Maldives.
“Travellers are looking at newer options for short-haul destinations in light of the unrest in the Maldives and the recent travel advisory issued,” said Ankit Rastogi, travel portal Cleartrip’s vice president for hotels.
Malaysia and Phuket have registered a more than 20% increase in booking rates, and the developments in the Maldives could have contributed to this, Rastogi said. “Destinations like Kuala Lumpur and Kathmandu are also showing about 7-10% increase in share on the chart of top destinations when compared with the few weeks before the news of unrest came out.”
Travel portal Yatra.com is seeing an uptick in bookings for Sri Lanka and Mauritius. “People are looking at alternative destinations and we are recommending them (Sri Lanka and Mauritius) to our clients. Queries for such destinations are also up by 30% over last month,” said Sharat Dhall, the portal’s chief operating officer for B2C businesses.
According to industry estimates, around 60,000 Indians travel to the Maldives every year. It is a popular honeymoon destination and since it is the wedding season in India now, it is a peak period for travel to the Maldives.
Kapil Goswamy, chairman and managing director of BigBreaks.com, said the destination was witnessing a lot of cancellations. “Maldives, being a popular honeymoon and tourism destination, sees a large influx of Indian travellers during this season. But travellers are now looking elsewhere or postponing their travel plans,” said Goswamy. “During the last three weeks, we’ve seen over 30-35 bookings being cancelled, with travellers choosing to instead travel to either Sri Lanka, or other beach destinations like Thailand or Malaysia.”
Karan Anand, head of relationships at travel company Cox & Kings, said places such as the Seychelles and Mauritius could gain from the developments in the Maldives.
Source: The Economic Times (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/)