Maldives President Muizzu Seeks Tourism Lifeline from China as India Row Bites

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has urged China to boost tourism to the island nation amidst a backlash from Indian tourists. During an official visit to China, Muizzu emphasized the close ties between the Maldives and China, calling China their “closest” ally and development partner. The appeal follows a diplomatic row that led to the cancellation of reservations by Indian tourists after offensive remarks were made by some Maldivian ministers against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Speaking at the Maldives Business Forum in Fujian Province, Muizzu highlighted China as the Maldives’ former top market pre-Covid and urged intensified efforts to regain that position. The Maldives government suspended three deputy ministers for derogatory social media posts, leading to a wave of cancellations by Indian tourists. EaseMyTrip, an online travel company, also suspended flights to the Maldives amid the controversy.

President Muizzu praised China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project and expressed the Maldives’ willingness to join. Both countries have signed a USD 50 million project to develop an integrated tourism zone on the Indian Ocean island.

In 2023, India contributed the highest number of visitors to the Maldives with 209,198 arrivals, followed by Russia with 209,146 arrivals and China with 187,118 arrivals. Muizzu’s appeal reflects efforts to mitigate the tourism impact and strengthen ties with China in the face of strained relations with India.

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