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A diplomatic row between India and the Maldives sparked by social media is causing significant economic repercussions for the island nation, as Indian travelers and travel agencies have begun canceling their reservations in the picturesque archipelago, CNBC reported.
Calls for a boycott of the Maldives by Indian travelers have led to a reported 40 percent drop in bookings this week, the news website wrote.
Many Indian travel agents have also canceled bookings to the Maldives, removed promotional content, and redirected travelers to alternative destinations.
The dispute originated from a series of social media posts by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, showcasing his activities in Lakshadweep, an archipelago off southwestern India’s coast.
The posts showed Modi snorkeling, sitting by the water and meeting people in the tourist spot, which observers say could be seen as an attempt to divert tourists from the Maldives.
In response, Maldives’ supporters – including some of the island’s government officials – wrote negative comments about India’s tourism industry and fired insults at Modi, calling him a “clown” and a “terrorist.”
Observers said the row follows the 2023 election of Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, who adopted an “India out” policy, causing a shift in diplomatic relations. Muizzu also broke with long-standing tradition by choosing China for his first official state visit – a move widely seen as a snub to India.
Analysts added that the diplomatic dispute could severely impact the Maldives’ tourism sector, its main source of revenue.
In 2023, India accounted for more than 10 percent of Maldives’ arrivals and contributed $380 million to the island nation’s tourism industry.
The #BoycottMaldives campaign could result in millions of dollars in losses for that sector.