India became the largest source market for the tourism industry of Maldives in 2020, with total 62,905 arrivals throughout the year.
The number accounts for 11.3 percent of the total market share, according to the statistics released by the Ministry of Tourism.
The Indian High Commission of Maldives hailed the development as a remarkable achievement during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, further noting that India was ranked the fifth biggest market in 2018.
India attributed the accomplishment to the strengthened relations between the two countries during the current administration, including the signing of a bilateral visa-free agreement in March 2019.
Stating that the ties continued to show great resilience amid the pandemic, the High Commission also highlighted that the first Air Travel Bubble in South Asia was established between Maldives and India in August 2020.
These developments led to a vast amount of A-listers from Bollywood, India's affluent film industry, flocking to their tropical neighbour's equally famous beaches to rejuvenate and escape lockdown woes.
"The ripple-effects attracted an increasing number of Indian travelers to the Maldives eventually pushing India to the top spot", said the commission.
The Maldivian government also paid particular attention to the Indian market during its efforts to market the destination and kickstart tourism again, with Visit Maldives conducting a number of promotional activities in the neighbouring country.
The Indian High Commission and tourism ministry further organised several webinars and virtual events connecting travel agents between the two countries, in the final quarter of 2020.
Currently, four Indian airlines, Air India, Indigo, Go Air and Spice Jet, along with Maldives' national carrier Maldivian, are operating flights between the two countries, connecting Male’ with the Indian cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi, Chennai and Trivandrum.
Maldives recorded a total of 555,399 tourist arrivals for the year 2020, surpassing the government's goal of 500,000 tourists -- a sharply downsized number from 2019's record of 1.7 million, due to the local and international travel restrictions imposed over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following India as the biggest source market was Russia with 61,388 visitors and the United Kingdom with 52,716. Other countries among the top ten source markets for 2020 are Italy, Germany, China, France, United States, Switzerland and Ukraine.
The island nation reopened its borders to international passengers on July 15, after nearly four months since the state halted issuing on-arrival visas on March 27. Guesthouses were permitted to resume operations and kick start local tourism on October 15.
Although Maldives noted a significant reduction in tourist arrivals compared to pre-COVID figures, there has been a gradual increase with the establishment of travel bubbles between the country and other nations, as well as greater connectivity in terms of flight operations.
At present, over 20 airlines are managing flights to and from Maldives.
The government aims to attract a total of 1.2 million tourists to Maldives in 2021.