Missing tours: A luxurious resort in Maldives
POLITICAL instability and unrest in the Maldives have raised fears for the islands’ vital tourism industry which caters to high-end travellers and honeymooning couples.
The archipelago nation, made up of 1,192 coral and sand-fringed islands dotted with luxury resorts, depends on tourism for a third of its gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 60 per cent of foreign currency earnings.
After the dramatic events of Tuesday (February 7), when President Mohamed Nasheed resigned following a mutiny by police, some travel agents said they had received calls from holidaymakers wanting to cancel their expensive trips.
The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), an umbrella body, said it was anticipating many clients pulling out ahead of a busy period over Valentine’s Day on February 14.
“Travellers going to Maldives are looking for total relaxation. Once the atmosphere gets affected, travellers become anxious,” TAAI president Iqbal Mulla told a reporter by phone.
“The recent developments in Maldives are a major setback.”
Konica Kapoor, an executive of Flexi Tours travel agency in New Delhi, told a reporter several clients of hers had already pulled out.
“We had four to five honeymoon couples who made bookings for Maldives and were due to travel in the coming week,” she told reporters.
The cancellations came as Britain’s government issued a warning against “all but essential travel” to the capital Male, citing an “uncertain” situation.
Most travellers to the Maldives are transferred directly from the international airport to their outlying resort destinations without ever setting foot on the crowded and noisy capital island Male.
“The geographical isolation of resorts and inhabited islands leaves tourists away from daily activities of local population centres,” the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators said.
“We would like to assure that the holidays of tourists in Maldives will not be affected in the current scenario. All the resorts and guest houses are operational,” it was quoted as saying by the website of Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times newspaper.
The Indian Ocean country last year drew more than 850,000 tourists to its secluded islands known for their turquoise blue lagoons and coral reefs teeming with tropical marine life.
The islands, long popular with Europeans as an idyllic holiday resort, now attract many visitors from Asia, especially India and China.
Any major downturn would have an immediate impact on the government’s finances.
The recent political unrest, fuelled by Islamic hardliners, is more adverse publicity for a place that sells itself as the ultimate tropical destination specialised in luxury and relaxation.
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