THE HIGH-CLASS INDIAN GETAWAY
Snorkelling in cerulean waters to catch glimpses of vivid fish; soaking in the hues of the sunset from your private pool villa; dining on elusive islands as the chef brings you freshly prepared catch — there’s nothing like workation or vacation like this. And turns out, Indians have pursued all this and more in the Maldives, surprisingly when international borders closed and a pandemic was declared in the world. Open up your Instagram feed and you’ll find a number of folks in Maldives ever so frequently. The nation of islands in the Indian Ocean seamlessly became a preferred destination among the jet setters of the Indian upper class. The Indian High Commission in the Maldives released data to validate this — the top source market for Maldivian tourism in 2020 was India, with 62,905 arrivals — accounting for 11.3 per cent of the total share. The country recorded a sum of 5,55,399 arrivals in 2020 (lower than the 1.7 million in 2019, but much higher than the targeted 5,00,000 for the year). For 2021, the tourism authorities are targeting 1.5 million arrivals.
Maldives opened for tourism when the world was battling one of the worst pandemics of history, on July 15, 2020, with free visa-on-arrival and no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival of foreign guests. It was an unquestionable choice for a lot of folks who needed escape from the mundanity of the lockdown India was under. However, “travellers were and are still required to submit an online health declaration form within 24 hours prior to departure, along with a negative Covid-19 RT PCR test that must be conducted 96 hours prior the scheduled time of departure from the first port of embarkation en route to the Maldives,” cites the website of Maldives Marketing and Public Relation Corporation (MMPRC), the national tourism office of the Maldives. Travellers arriving into the nation are granted a 30-day free visa on arrival and are also scanned for symptoms along with a thermal evaluation.
Growing connectivity can be attributed to this rise in Indian travel to the Maldives. Five Indian cities — Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Kochi — have flights to the country’s capital city of Malé — with airlines such as Indigo, Spicejet and Air India offering direct connectivity from some of the metros, under the air travel bubble established between the two countries. Only recently, Spicejet and Indigo announced the advent of direct flights between Mumbai-Malé and Kochi-Malé, respectively.
The two nation’s governments — Indian and Maldivian — also share friendly bilateral relations; and Indian airlines have been encouraged by the ministry of civil aviation of India to add frequent services to the Maldives-capital. In recent news, India has provided financial assistance of $250 million to the Maldives to help it mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
Along with ease of connections, the wide array of hotel choices from budget, mid-level to premium luxury, has appealed to Indians from different sections of the society. Travel agents have also begun customising all-inclusive and refundable packages which are quite tempting for those looking for a relatively affordable Maldivian experience (yes, this is possible).
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