HYDERABAD : December treated us to sun, sand and bikini photographs of holidayers in Maldives. Not just Bollywood celebs, Tollywood stars such as Samantha Akkineni and Kajal Aggarwal, Rakul Preet all headed for a holiday at the island country in the Indian ocean. Actor-producer Sharmiela Mandre, who recently returned from her Maldives holiday, says she felt miles safer at the airport than at any mall in the city. “At the moment, since domestic fliers are more, the international airport has fewer people anyway. Flights to Maldives are just two hours long, and both ways, the seats were half full,” she says.
Currently, many Indians have been travelling to two destinations for holidays: Dubai and Maldives. “After the lockdown, I was looking forward to a beach vacation. Dubai would have a city vibe and not much to do besides shopping or eating. Maldives, on the other hand, has plenty of activities,” says Mandre, adding that she spent her five days there, indulging in snorkelling, deep sea and scuba diving, and kayaking.
Incidentally, Maldives is the first country to offer loyalty points for visiting it. The Maldives is also one of the 16 countries offering visa-free travel to Indian passport-holders. To make it more attractive, the country recently became the first to devise a loyalty programme for visitors. Called Maldives Border Miles, the programme will be officially implemented on 1 December 2020. Could that be one of the reasons for the new craze for this island destination?
Shanvi Srivastava, who acted in Telugu movies s uch as Lovely and Adda, visited the islands last month, tells CE the prerequisite of getting a Covid-19 negative test 96 hours before flying helped put her safety concerns at ease. “Isolation measures starts from the minute you arrive. Each resort in Maldives has its own boat to ferry you from the airport, and these also have limited seating. When I went, there were just three of us on the boat,” says the actor, who spent her trip chasing sunsets and waves.
Praachi Tantia, the founder of Fly Me Travels, says, “A lot of hotels are also offering all-inclusive packages, which lures the customer to enjoy the resort and not worry about paying for additional meals and packages. Maldives also has visa on arrival, so this also works well for last-minute travellers.”
This made planning the trip easier for Ruhi Meman, a social media influencer who booked her flight tickets two days before her journey.
“My boyfriend and I paid Rs 35,000 each for the round-trip tickets, while our stay, which had an all-inclusive package of three meals, boat transfer and snorkelling equipment, came up to US$3,500,” says Meman. Here’s the ‘ouch-inducing’ bit. According to a report in DailyMail last month, Britons who honeymooned in the Maldives are the most likely to divorce, according to a poll. About 20 per cent of 3,100 divorced or separated people who were questioned in the survey had been to Maldives. We hope Indians are not affected by this and will continue to enjoy their trips to this beautiful country.
Fun and fare
Praachi Tantia, founder, Fly Me Travels, says Maldives offers a range of packages to tourists, starting from Rs 25,000 to Rs 10 lakh per person for three nights. “Hotels offer speed boat, seaplane and domestic plane transfers. The further away it is, the more expensive the journey to the hotel gets,” she explains. Since October, Tantia has received many enquiries, out of which 80 per cent have turned into sales. “Maximum travellers to Maldives are from Mumbai but many are from other cities as well. Flights used to be priced at Rs 20,000 from Mumbai, but due to heavy demand, it has seen an increase by two times on certain dates,” she adds. A Cleatrip spokesperson said flight fares in December this year are 45 per cent higher than last year. So it is better to book in advance for good deals
Besides Maldives, Hyderabadis are also heading to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, visiting their family in the US, while New Delhi, Goa, Kolkata and Mumbai remain domestic favourites this month, according to Cleartrip