India is offering Lakshadweep as a better and more attractive tourist destination to visitors

New Delhi: The Maldives is facing a boycott from one of its biggest sources of tourism income after three of its officials made derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Foreign tourists, as well as locals, are now vouching for India's top destinations, including cities, tourist attractions, and other places while shunning the sun-kissed getaway for domestic beaches instead.

Located 36.6 km northeast of Male, the capital of the Maldives is Dhiffushi Island, which is a part of Kaafu Atoll. With around 1200 people living on this little island, the main source of economic activity here is tourism and fishing.

Amid the ongoing rift between India and the Maldives, the foreign visitors here shared the experiences of their visits to various Indian states and lauded Indian tradition, culture and colour.

The locals here, whose bread and butter is derived from the tourism sector, applauded Indian tourists, who play a key role in generating revenue for Maldivians.

"I went to Goa and Mumbai in 2007. The first impression that I had was that I was in a different world. Coming from Europe, the experience was altogether different. What I loved the most was the Indian tradition, culture and colours. There are amazing sunsets. I like India a lot. We were there for around 10-12 days," said Franco Bistoni, a tourist from Italy, while speaking to ANI.

Sharing her experience of visiting Andamans, Elaine Treacy, an Ireland tourist who has been to India more than three times, called the Indian islands 'amazing' and 'beautiful' and said that her time on the Indian island was spent very well.

For Ivan Petkov, a visitor from Bulgaria, the story was a little different. Visiting the Maldives with his family, he was optimistic of visiting India one day, which he had never been before but it was definitely on his bucket list. While speaking with ANI, Ivan revealed that he has a lot of Indian friends in London, who piqued his interest in visiting a place that is 'completely different' from Europe.

"We heard that it is a completely different place from Europe, where we are coming from. As well as the culture, food and everything else, it has been interesting for us," said Ivan.

The island's communities and locals are heavily dependent on the tourism and fisheries sectors to bring food to their tables. The island was, however, hit hard by the pandemic.

Underscoring that there has been a decline in Indian tourists visiting Dhiffushi since last year, Mohammed, a hotelier, praised Indian visitors and quoted them as 'very friendly'.

"In 2023, I haven't seen a lot of Indian tourists coming here (Diffushi), but there were many in Male, which is good. Right now, we have a high number of tourists coming from Italy, Russia and mostly European countries, said Ibrahim Shareef, another hotelier on the Dhiffushi island.

In addition, Ibrahim revealed that having studied in Mysore for six years, he was awestruck by the city's cleanliness and that he liked India a lot.

A massive row was triggered after the Maldives deputy minister, along with other cabinet members and government officials, made disparaging and unsavoury references to PM Modi's Lakshadweep visit. Since then, Indians, including cricketers and film celebrities, have come out in open support of promoting local beach destinations and other tourist spots.

Several Indians stated they cancelled their trips to the Maldives after the row erupted and began a campaign called '#BoycottMaldives'.