(eTN) – Recent events in the Maldives have triggered a trend by key global tour operating companies to seek alternatives, should the islands descend into full-scale political unrest. First in the bad news, came the Maldives opposition demands to shut down with immediate effect all spas in each and every resort across the islands, alleging that they were a front for prostitution and brothels.
Initially implemented, the government then made a swift U-turn when it became evident that tourism would suffer huge setbacks should the decision be allowed to stand, but not long afterwards, more bad news emerged. When the airport handling charges were unilaterally raised by 50 percent, airlines started to protest and threaten reduction of air services to the island’s sole international airport, raising the spectrum of less seats and less tourists coming for holidays. Qatar Airways’ outspoken CEO Al Baker, in fact, was widely quoted in aviation news as saying that should the outrageous increases not be reviewed and revised, the airline could contemplate reducing flights and shifting that capacity elsewhere.
The latest and worst news, though, is the mutiny by sections of the country’s police earlier in the week, which effectively forced the elected president from office, throwing yet more clouds over the future of the Maldives. A radical opposition, ready to restore the ban on spas at the expense of losing out big time in tourist arrivals and foreign exchange earnings, is now scratching to get into power, setting international tour operators and airlines on a collision course with politics and having their crisis management teams already looking into their options.
Other Indian Ocean islands, like Mauritius and the Seychelles, are ready to accommodate tourists initially booked for the Maldives or intent to book their holiday there, should the political situation worsen and compel tour operators to seek safe alternatives, as foreign ministries are preparing anti-travel advisories, warning potential visitors of the potential for political unrest, affecting the smooth operation of the airport and of holiday resorts.
Understandably, official tourism sources from both Seychelles and Mauritius are cautious to comment, but private operators of resorts have made it quite plain that they are ready to absorb any additional traffic from Maldives, should the situation there become untenable for tourism.