By: rahul adhikari
January 10 2024
Social media posts claim that Indians have canceled over 10,000 hotel bookings and 5,000 flight tickets to the Maldives. (Source: X/Visit Maldives/Modified by Logically Facts)
Amid a dip in diplomatic ties between India and the Maldives, following disparaging remarks made by a Maldivian deputy minister and cabinet ministers directed at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, social media has been abuzz with false claims and misleading images about the two countries.
One such widespread claim states that as many as 10,500 hotel bookings and 5,520 flight tickets to the Maldives have been cancelled by Indian tourists in recent days. Various screenshots of purported cancelled bookings flooded platforms like X, shared by users expressing their discontent with the Maldivian officials' comments.
Screenshots of the viral posts on X. (Source: X/Screenshot)
A user posted a screenshot on January 6 (archived here), stating that he had cancelled a booking at the Palms Retreat, Fulhadhoo, the Maldives, worth at least Rs 5 lakh, attributing it to the ministers' “racist remarks.” This screenshot and similar claims were reposted by multiple users across social media platforms.
Screenshots of the same post shared by several users on X. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)
Several media outlets including LiveMint and Gujarat Samachar initially reported on this issue. However, LiveMint later modified its report to suggest that while “many Indians” claimed to have cancelled their hotel and flight bookings, concrete evidence to substantiate these claims was lacking.
Screenshot of the Mint report (left) and the post shared by Gujarat Samachar. (Source: X/Modified by Logically Facts)
The controversy ignited following PM Modi's recent visit to Lakshadweep, during which he posted pictures from the island on X (formerly Twitter). Although Modi didn’t mention the Maldives in his post, his praise for the archipelago prompted Indian users to promote Lakshadweep as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives.
In what was seen as a clear escalation of hostilities by many, the three Maldivian ministers labelled PM Modi a "clown", "terrorist" and "puppet of Israel" on X, in response to a video of him promoting local tourism in Lakshadweep.
This led to a massive outcry by Indian users who shared posts with hashtags like #BoycottMaldives and #MaldivesBoycott on X. The latter is still trending in India, accumulating nearly 38,000 posts.
Neither the Indian nor the Maldivian government has officially addressed the assertions regarding these supposed widespread cancellation trends. Additionally, travel agencies, booking platforms, and airlines have not released any data to corroborate these claims.
Tourism organisations’ response
To seek clarity, Logically Facts reached out to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), the national apex body of tourism in India. IATO President Rajiv Mehra dispelled the claims, stating, "There have been no widespread cancellation trends. These claims are merely social media rumors. However, in the coming weeks, we may witness a decline, and the trends will indicate the impact. As of now, no such trend has been recorded.”
Vistara Airline's Chief Commercial Officer, Deepak Rajawat, stated at a briefing on January 8 that they have not experienced any noticeable uptick in cancellations and are monitoring the situation for fluctuations in flight demand, as reported by the Economic Times. Other major airlines like Air India, IndiGo, and SpiceJet that operate flights to the Maldives have not yet issued any clarification on the matter.
Booking platforms such as EaseMyTrip have temporarily suspended bookings to the Maldives. MakeMyTrip noted a significant surge (a 3400 percent increase) in searches for Lakshadweep following PM Modi’s visit. However, none of these platforms have made official statements regarding booking cancellations by Indians to the Maldives.
Madhav Oza, Director of Blue Star Air Travel Service, told ANI that there is a possibility of a 20-30 percent rise in the cancellation rate. “If we look at the overall picture, India-Maldives connectivity has improved over the last few years. There are eight direct flights from all over India to the Maldives and almost 1,200-1,300 Indian passengers fly to the Maldives each day. However, there is a possibility of 20-30% cancellations now," he said,
In conclusion, there exists no concrete evidence or available data to substantiate claims of over 10,000 hotel bookings and 5,000 flight tickets being cancelled to the Maldives due to the diplomatic row. These figures surfaced on social media and then made their way into several news reports without proper validation. However, industry experts do expect new bookings to take a significant hit in the coming weeks.