News, Maldives Travel Ban: The Bollywood Bolthole During India's Second Covid Wave Now Shuts Out Wealthy

Maldives was a Bollywood bolthole during India's second wave. Now wealthy Indians are shut out

Maldives has banned tourists from South Asia, cutting off an escape route for wealthy Indians fleeing their own country's Covid-19 crisis

5/14/2021 6:51:00 AM
News, Maldives Travel Ban: The Bollywood Bolthole During India's Second Covid Wave Now Shuts Out Wealthy

Maldives has banned tourists from South Asia, cutting off an escape route for wealthy Indians fleeing their own country's Covid-19 crisis

Maldives has banned tourists from South Asia, cutting off an escape route for wealthy Indians fleeing their own country's Covid-19 crisis.

They were not alone. This year, India has become the largest source of tourists to Maldives. From January to March, almost 70,000 Indians visited the country -- doublethe number of Indian holidaymakers who traveled to the islands in the whole of 2020, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

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The cost of flying toMaldives from India rose sharply in April, as countries began to impose travel bans to and from India. Commercial flight prices rose more than fourfold as international restrictions limited travel options, said Rajan Mehra, CEO of Club One Air, an air charter company based in India.

Some individuals paid more than $65,000 for a one-way ticket for a charter flight to Maldives in April, Mehra added.Related contentIndia is spiraling deeper into Covid-19 crisis. Here's what you need to knowIn the early weeks of April, several Bollywood stars posted sunny beach photos and vacation shots on social media -- angering the Indian public and film industry figures who accused them of flaunting their wealth at a difficult time for many poorer Indians.

"These entertainment celebrities (are) posting vacation pictures at a time when the world is reeling under the worst recession," said Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui,"People don't have food and you are wasting money."Even celebrities who

didn't fly to Maldives faced blowback for not doing more to help curb the spread of Covid-19.Criticsthe stars' massive social media base could be used to amplify calls for help or to coordinate efforts on the ground.It appears some may be listening.

Since paparazzi images purported to show her leaving India for Maldives, Bhatt has shared helpline numbers for non-government organizations and state governments on her social media accounts. In one post in late April she said India was facing"a time of great uncertainty."

In early May, Bhatt and a number of other celebrities also took part in,"I Breathe For India," that raised more than $2 million in Covid relief funds.Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt at the 20th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in Mumbai, September 2019.

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Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty ImagesCovid spreads in India's neighborsMaldives' economy is heavily reliant on tourism -- before the pandemic, the islands welcomed 1.7 million visitors in 2019.Numbers plummeted to just overhalf a million in 2020, and the nation had been keen to set itself apart as one of the few luxury retreats as the pandemic spread worldwide.

While many other destinations shut their borders, the Maldives chose to fully reopen to travelers from any country in July 2020.This April, officials announced plans to offer vaccinations to tourists on arrival, once all Maldives residents had received their shots. So far, around 25% of locals have been fully vaccinated,

according to data compiled by CNN.By May, Maldives was introducing new restrictions. All new arrivals were required to show proof of a negative test taken within 96 hours of their departure for the islands. Then, visitors from South Asia were only allowed to stay on inhabited islands. Mehra, the air charter CEO, said that had reduced demand for charter flights to the destination.

Related contentPeople line up to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in Male, Maldives, on March 15, 2021.Xinhua/Getty ImagesMaldives is not the only place in Asia battling a Covid resurgence. The India outbreak has been linked to a rise in infections inseveral nearby countries

, with many reporting cases of a variant first detected in India.Cases have skyrocketed in Nepal to the north and Sri Lanka to the south. And it's not just India's neighbors -- further away in Southeast Asia, case numbers are also rising in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.

The rapid spread of the virus has placed enormous pressure on the countries' health systems and medical supplies, and some have called for international assistance.But a handful countries in the region have been relatively unscathed by India's second wave -- and remain open for visitors.

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Maldives' restrictions mean many wealthy Indians are now looking elsewhere for a getaway -- and Dubai is emerging as a top alternative destination, with bookings increasing by up to 10% in recent weeks, said Mehra. Some customers have paid up to $1,400 for a ticket -- five times what it normally costs on a commercial flight, Mehra said.

The Maldives travel ban aside, similar flight restrictions from other countries could also be driving the increase in traffic to Dubai, he added. Read more: CNN »

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Have they banned ex-US Presidents fleeing tax evasion obstruction of justice and Insurrection charges? I had to read this 3 times before I realized it didn’t say “Bollywood butthole” 🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸🇵🇸 GazaUnderAttack GenocideinGaza savesheikhjarrah Good for them! The symbolism of the Imam calling worshippers to prayer on top of a bombed out mosque in Gaza will be etched into the minds of Muslims worldwide.

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I had to read this 3 times before I realized it didn’t say “Bollywood butthole” How sad this pandemic is - here in Australia we have threatened returning citizens from India with jail. GazaUnderAttack GenocideinGaza savesheikhjarrah Maldives citizens are mostly vaccinated already. They’ve banned Indians to encourage foreign tourism. It’s purely a business move. Pretty unique policy globally, considering 1/4 of their population is vaccinated with 2 doses and 1/2 pop at 1 dose.

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