Pres Dr. Muizzu urges China to ramp up efforts for tourism market recovery

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has requested the Chinese government to strengthen efforts to reclaim the top spot in the Maldives' tourism market.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, China held the position as the leading tourism market for the Maldives, welcoming 284,029 tourists in 2019. However, prolonged border closures due to the pandemic halted the Chinese market for over three years until it reopened in January last year. Since then, the number of Chinese tourists has been increasing exponentially, climbing to the third spot by the end of the year with 187,118 tourists.

Speaking at the opening of the Invest MAldives Forum in Fujian Province, China, President Dr. Muizzu expressed the Maldives' commitment to further strengthen and drive the economic industry and boost visitor numbers. He noted that the government has plans to diversify the tourism product and offer new experiences, including the introduction of a top-tier school of hospitality and the exploration of sports, medical, and cultural tourism. He urged China to intensify efforts to regain the top position in the Maldives' tourism market.

The President’s request comes while some Indian travel agencies have suspended bookings to the Maldives following a controversy over derogatory remarks by some senior Maldives government officials directed at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The controversy began on January 4 when Indian PM Modi shared a video promoting tourism in India's Lakshadweep archipelago on social media channels. Despite India being the top tourism market for the Maldives in 2023, comments from Indian nationals on the post implied that they should consider visiting their own territories rather than the Maldives. Interestingly, the release of the promotional video coincided with the announcement of President Dr. Muizzu's state visit to China, leading to speculation about India making a strategic move. While both Indians and Maldivians were engaged in back-and-forth banter on social media, the situation escalated when three Deputy Ministers of the Youth Ministry, Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef, and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid responded to the original post with derogatory remarks using inappropriate language.