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Feature

Maldives SoE leaves tourism door ajar for rivals

Maldives is well regarded as 'heaven on earth' and that is a fact not lost on the world. But the world has several other such 'heavens' trying to compete with each other to emerge as the 'best paradise on earth.'

For years Maldives enjoyed the throne of being the best tourist destination in the world for multiple of reasons that other countries failed to deliver - peace and harmony, compassionate and friendly locals and the whitest of sandy beaches anyone can imagine of.

But trouble fell upon the 'heaven on earth' when the country's apex court on February 1 issued an order for the release of nine political prisoners which had included the former president Mohamed Nasheed who was convicted of terrorism among other offenses.

Since then the island nation was thrown into new and rather deeper political throes which intensified even further on February 5 when incumbent president Abdulla Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency which had since been stretched to 45 days in total.

This appeared as the final nail in the coffin to the already startled holidaymakers from across the globe eyeing their anticipated vacations, in Maldives tourism.

Immediately afterwards a wave of booking cancellations from multiple guesthouse and resort outlets through travel agencies shook the tourism sector of Maldives. Several local business owners shared their chagrin and despair over a situation that seemingly was deteriorating further.

But as the age old saying goes "one man's loss is another man's gain", every other tourism-based nation moved ahead to take full advantage of this situation since the vacationers initially planned to grace Maldives, redirected their plans alternative destinations.

"It would be a mistake for Maldivians to worsen the already critical situation, the situation would be economically exploited well by competitors and that is not an appealing future for the local tourism," a foreign tour operator had expressed their views on the ongoing political strife in Maldives.

Although Maldives currently is struggling through a 45 day long state of emergency that has pitted the island nation against most of its regional allies on a diplomatic battle, the country had witnessed a boom in the local tourism industry for the past four years.

Nearly 30 additional resorts opened during the last four years with more than 20 in 2017 alone, expanding the country's tourist bed capacity by 40,000.

The Indian Ocean archipelago maintained its image as one of the most peaceful countries on earth with the most benevolent locals - but the state of emergency has seemingly quashed these facts about the country.

The slight tear in the country's tourism industry meant competitors attempting to penetrate it to extract their own means of profit - 'snatching' away potential tourists to their destinations.

Indian tourism pundits and business owners have validated their nationals have been redirecting their trips to alternative destinations, which currently promote themselves to provide "better" facilities and relaxation from their outlets compared to the tense-riddled Maldives.

Several Indian based booking sites have indicated many pre-bookings to Maldives getting either cancelled or changed to other destinations.

Similarly China, a prime tourist market to Maldives had since waned off on its visitors to the country with the Asian giant's government issuing an advisory to its citizens to refrain from making any visits to the island nation during a time of "great stress."

Their advisory had since been relaxed but still with the damage already settled into the tourism industry's revenue - it would be clearly reflected in monthly projections from the local tourism ministry.

Many local entrepreneurs have voiced their concern over the dangers to the tourism industry if the state of emergency persisted any longer, with its consequences already showing visible dents in the economy.