The travel scandal between Maldives and India is getting worse: it could lead to millions in losses
Posts on social media by Maldivian officials could cost the country millions in tourism revenue as calls from Indian travelers to boycott the island nation intensify.
"In the last two days, we have seen a 40% drop in bookings," said Ankit Chaturvedi, vice president and global head of marketing at Rategain, an Indian travel software company. "Most people are booking on weekends, and that's why the drop seems more significant because ideally [bookings] should have gone up," he told CNBC Travel.
The number of bookings to the Maldives has fallen following a diplomatic conflict that erupted last week after a series of posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, on the account of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He described how he was vacationing on the Lakshadweep Islands (India) off the coast of the Indian state of Kerala. There he walked on the white sand and went diving.
After that, some Maldivian officials decided that Modi was trying to lure Indian tourists away from the Maldives. They called him a "clown," a "terrorist," and an "Israeli puppet."
According to The India Express, some travel agencies in India have said they are canceling bookings for the Maldives, removing photos from their websites and recommending that travelers go to the Indian archipelago of Lakshadweep, the Andaman Islands, the Nicobar Islands or Sri Lanka.
This controversy has drawn worldwide attention to the little-known Lakshadweep, which, like the Maldives, is a picturesque chain of sandy atolls, coral reefs and crystalline water.
Meanwhile, the Indian travel company MakeMyTrip reported that interest in the Lakshadweep Islands has skyrocketed by 3400%. The archipelago is unlikely to be able to cope with the influx of tourists: there are only 150 hotels, and planes fly once a week.