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Explained: Indian Vs Chinese Tourists – and How Maldives Is Dependent on Both

As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.

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Even as diplomatic tensions between the Maldives and India continued to simmer, the island country's President Mohammed Muizzu paid a five-day visit to China last week – his first state visit as a country head. Besides holding bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Muizzu appealed to China to "intensify efforts to send more tourists to his country."

In the backdrop of a concerted effort by Indian netizens to promote Indian islands, as well as to 'boycott' the Maldives as a tourist destination, how will the Maldivian President's appeal shape the archipelagic nation's tourism?

Where does an Indian tourist stand vis-a-vis a Chinese tourist – and how dependent is the Maldives on both? We take a closer look at the tourism numbers to help decode what Muizzu's appeal means for India, China, and the Maldives.

Explained: Indian Vs Chinese Tourists – and How Maldives Is Dependent on Both

  1. 1. India Vs China: Market Share to the Maldives' Tourism Industry in 2023

    Mohammed Muizzu's China visit was marked by an aid of $130 million to redevelop Male, a $50 million agreement to develop an integrated tourism zone in Hulhumale, as well as allowing the Maldives' national airline, Maldivian, to conduct domestic flight operations in China.

    "China was our number one market pre-COVID, and it is my request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position," he had said at the Invest Maldives Forum held in Fujian during his visit to China.

    While China sent the maximum number of tourists to the island nation until 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in 2023, the Maldives saw the highest number of tourist arrivals from India.

    According to a report published by the Maldives' Ministry of Tourism, Russian tourists were a close second followed by arrivals from China, the UK, and Germany in the list of top-10 tourist arrivals in the past year. 

    As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.

    The report also mentioned that while India operates two airlines to the Maldives – Air Vistara and Indigo – China, too, operates two flights – Capital Airlines and China Eastern. 

    Expand
  2. 2. India Vs China: Market Share to the Maldives' Tourism Industry Pre-Pandemic

    China had been the largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives in the last decade starting in 2010 until 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak was reported from Wuhan, following which, many countries put travel restrictions on China.

    After China restricted all outbound travel, the share of Chinese tourists arriving in the Maldives plummeted by a whopping 87.9 percent, bringing it down from the first to the sixth position terms of market share. 

    "Despite the challenges posed during the coronavirus pandemic, the Maldives and India established a travel bubble by opening a travel corridor between the two countries. As a result, arrivals from India slowly started to rebound from October 2020 onwards," the report published by the Maldives' tourism ministry stated. 

    As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.

    India registered a 363.4 percent uptick in sending tourists to the Maldives in 2021, as compared to 2020, even as Chinese tourists continued to decrease at 93.5% year-on-year because of China's stringent 'zero-COVID' policy.

    In 2022, while Indian tourists in the Maldives decreased by 17.3 percent year-on-year, in whole numbers, it sent the maximum number of tourists to the island nation. Meanwhile, China registered a growth of 470 percent in sending tourists to the Maldives.

    However, in 2023, China showed massive recovery, with tourist arrivals in the Maldives inching close to the pre-pandemic figures.

    Expand
  3. 3. Indian Tourist Vs Chinese Tourist

    Muizzu's appeal to China to send more tourists to the Maldives came close on the heels of aggressive social media campaigns to 'BoycottMaldives' in India. While many netizens claimed to cancel their vacation to the Maldives, an Indian online travel portal, EaseMyTrip, announced that it is suspending all flight bookings from India to the Maldives. 

    The Maldives, a cluster of coral islands located in the Indian Ocean, depends heavily on tourism for its economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism made up for 58.3 percent of the Maldives' total economy in 2022, with over 70 percent jobs in the travel sector, USA Today reported. 

    As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023. 

    According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), China's total expenditure on international travel stands at $114.8 billion in 2022. Meanwhile, India spent $25 billion, or less than a quarter of the spends by Chinese tourists, on foreign travel during the same time period. 

    As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.

    China comes second only after the United States in terms of total expenditure on outbound travel. The nation is followed by Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and India. 

    A report by the UNWTO also states that on average, a Chinese tourist has been spending a little over double than an Indian tourist on international travel until 2019.

    While an Indian tourist has been spending steadily over the years, in 2020, it nearly doubled. Meanwhile, a Chinese tourist spent nearly four times on international travel during the same period.  

    As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.
    Expand
  4. 4. Where Do Indian Tourists Lag?

    A November 2023 report by Booking.com and McKinsey projected Indians to become the fourth-largest global travel spenders by 2030. The report noted that while Indians are expected to embark on 50 million foreign trips by 2030, the total expenditure is set to increase by 35 percent. It said: 

    "Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, India's outbound tourist market was among the fastest-growing markets in Asia. India has already recovered 61 percent of its pre-pandemic market, with 13 million outbound tourists in 2022." 

    While the Chinese took over 20 million outbound trips in 2020, Indians were far less travelled at around 7.12 million foreign trips, as per data from the UNWTO.

    This may be attributed to restricted access to international travel.

    India ranks 70th on the Passport Index, allowing visa-free travel to 27 other countries and visa-on-arrival in 48 countries, whereas China ranks 54, allowing visa-free travel to 42 countries and visa-on-arrival to 52 countries. 

    Another reason for this could be China's burgeoning and more affluent middle class, with their expendable income consistently rising. According to a survey by Pew Research Centre, the Chinese middle and upper middle-income population – which earns at least $10 to $50 a day – was at nearly 800 million in 2021. China achieved this in 40 years, after the Deng Xiaoping reforms began. 

    However, India's middle and upper-middle-income population stands at merely 121 million – one-seventh that of China's.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

India Vs China: Market Share to the Maldives' Tourism Industry in 2023

Mohammed Muizzu's China visit was marked by an aid of $130 million to redevelop Male, a $50 million agreement to develop an integrated tourism zone in Hulhumale, as well as allowing the Maldives' national airline, Maldivian, to conduct domestic flight operations in China.

"China was our number one market pre-COVID, and it is my request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position," he had said at the Invest Maldives Forum held in Fujian during his visit to China.

While China sent the maximum number of tourists to the island nation until 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in 2023, the Maldives saw the highest number of tourist arrivals from India.

According to a report published by the Maldives' Ministry of Tourism, Russian tourists were a close second followed by arrivals from China, the UK, and Germany in the list of top-10 tourist arrivals in the past year. 

As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.

The report also mentioned that while India operates two airlines to the Maldives – Air Vistara and Indigo – China, too, operates two flights – Capital Airlines and China Eastern. 

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India Vs China: Market Share to the Maldives' Tourism Industry Pre-Pandemic

China had been the largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives in the last decade starting in 2010 until 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak was reported from Wuhan, following which, many countries put travel restrictions on China.

After China restricted all outbound travel, the share of Chinese tourists arriving in the Maldives plummeted by a whopping 87.9 percent, bringing it down from the first to the sixth position terms of market share. 

"Despite the challenges posed during the coronavirus pandemic, the Maldives and India established a travel bubble by opening a travel corridor between the two countries. As a result, arrivals from India slowly started to rebound from October 2020 onwards," the report published by the Maldives' tourism ministry stated. 

As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.

India registered a 363.4 percent uptick in sending tourists to the Maldives in 2021, as compared to 2020, even as Chinese tourists continued to decrease at 93.5% year-on-year because of China's stringent 'zero-COVID' policy.

In 2022, while Indian tourists in the Maldives decreased by 17.3 percent year-on-year, in whole numbers, it sent the maximum number of tourists to the island nation. Meanwhile, China registered a growth of 470 percent in sending tourists to the Maldives.

However, in 2023, China showed massive recovery, with tourist arrivals in the Maldives inching close to the pre-pandemic figures.

0

Indian Tourist Vs Chinese Tourist

Muizzu's appeal to China to send more tourists to the Maldives came close on the heels of aggressive social media campaigns to 'BoycottMaldives' in India. While many netizens claimed to cancel their vacation to the Maldives, an Indian online travel portal, EaseMyTrip, announced that it is suspending all flight bookings from India to the Maldives. 

The Maldives, a cluster of coral islands located in the Indian Ocean, depends heavily on tourism for its economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism made up for 58.3 percent of the Maldives' total economy in 2022, with over 70 percent jobs in the travel sector, USA Today reported. 

As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023. 

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), China's total expenditure on international travel stands at $114.8 billion in 2022. Meanwhile, India spent $25 billion, or less than a quarter of the spends by Chinese tourists, on foreign travel during the same time period. 

As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.

China comes second only after the United States in terms of total expenditure on outbound travel. The nation is followed by Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and India. 

A report by the UNWTO also states that on average, a Chinese tourist has been spending a little over double than an Indian tourist on international travel until 2019.

While an Indian tourist has been spending steadily over the years, in 2020, it nearly doubled. Meanwhile, a Chinese tourist spent nearly four times on international travel during the same period.  

As per a report in CNBC, India drove $380 million worth of tourism to the Maldives in 2023.
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Where Do Indian Tourists Lag?

A November 2023 report by Booking.com and McKinsey projected Indians to become the fourth-largest global travel spenders by 2030. The report noted that while Indians are expected to embark on 50 million foreign trips by 2030, the total expenditure is set to increase by 35 percent. It said: 

"Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, India's outbound tourist market was among the fastest-growing markets in Asia. India has already recovered 61 percent of its pre-pandemic market, with 13 million outbound tourists in 2022." 

While the Chinese took over 20 million outbound trips in 2020, Indians were far less travelled at around 7.12 million foreign trips, as per data from the UNWTO.

This may be attributed to restricted access to international travel.

India ranks 70th on the Passport Index, allowing visa-free travel to 27 other countries and visa-on-arrival in 48 countries, whereas China ranks 54, allowing visa-free travel to 42 countries and visa-on-arrival to 52 countries. 

Another reason for this could be China's burgeoning and more affluent middle class, with their expendable income consistently rising. According to a survey by Pew Research Centre, the Chinese middle and upper middle-income population – which earns at least $10 to $50 a day – was at nearly 800 million in 2021. China achieved this in 40 years, after the Deng Xiaoping reforms began. 

However, India's middle and upper-middle-income population stands at merely 121 million – one-seventh that of China's.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Maldives    China   Travel 

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