The Maldives Is Seeing Hundreds of Hotel Cancellations a Day – Should Travelers Really Be Worried?
Foreign relations experts weigh in.
Despite its crystalline beaches and breezy palm trees, the island nation of the Maldives is not in a state of paradise at the moment.
The South Asian archipelago is experiencing turmoil after its president, Abdulla Yameen, declared a state of emergency following a Supreme Court ruling that he felt threatened his leadership. As a result, Yameen ordered the arrest of two judges and a military blockade of the court, prompting protests in the Maldives’ capital, Malé.
The dissent and Yameen’s warnings of an imminent coup has led several world governments to issue travel advisories for the tropical nation, including the U.S., the U.K., China, and India. The alerts appear to be impacting the country’s economy-driving industry, tourism.
Do those tourists have the right idea? Should travel to the Maldives be avoided at this time? Seth Jones, director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Travel + Leisure that visitors to the country should remain alert but not afraid.
“I wouldn’t necessarily avoid the country, though I would urge individuals traveling to the Maldives to proceed with caution,” he said. “I would urge travelers to avoid major public gatherings and anti-government gatherings."
Jones added, “[The] Maldives is notably safer than countries like Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Based on past, current, and likely threats in the Maldives, I don’t consider the threat ‘high’ for terrorism or major civilian unrest.”
The Maldives government has echoed the same sentiment, saying in a statement that “all tourism related businesses will be operating as usual and the situation of the Maldives remains stable,” according to CNN. The U.K.’s travel advisory notes that Malé International Airport and the country’s outer-lying resort islands remain unaffected by recent events.
But Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow for South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it was odd that so many nations — all with different relationships with the Maldives — issued alerts at once.
“What I would say about this moment is that it’s highly unusual for the United States, India, and China to all issue travel advisories [or] warnings,” Ayres said. “These advisories indicate a level of concern that goes beyond the routine.”
Jones touched on that same subject, saying that “Yameen’s crackdown on opposition elements creates uncertainty and raises the possibility of some unrest, anti-government protests, and government oppression."
He added, “It is difficult to assess whether the current crisis will end once the 15-day state of emergency ends, or whether it will persist for longer.”