Thiruvananthapuram: Even though Maldives has been embroiled in political turmoil for a long time, it's becoming a tourist destination of choice for honeymooners from Kerala.
Located in the Arabian Sea and spread over 298 square kilometres, it is the smallest Asian country by both land area and population, with only a little over 390,000 people.
"Maldives has started gaining huge acceptance as a honeymoon destination due to the quietness and tranquillity of its beaches and, above all, the air connectivity -- with daily flights from Thiruvananthapuram," said Raphael Devaraj, an official of the Maldivian, the national carrier of Maldives.
In 1972, there were two tourism resorts in Maldives. Today, there are over a hundred, suiting budget tourists. It takes between 55 minutes and 80 minutes to reach Male from Thiruvananthapuram, depending on the aircraft and the fare ranges between Rs 11,000 and Rs 14,000.
According to Vinay Balachandran, who works with a leading travel agency, Orizon Holidays, there had been a "dramatic increase" in the last five years in the number of people travelling from Kerala to Maldives. "Compared to Singapore and other places, Maldives is a quintessential honeymoon destination as it offers the perfect place for couples who prefer a quiet and refreshing stay," Balachandran told IANS.
It's no longer an upmarket destination, as it used to be. "Earlier, just the resorts were there. Today it has changed with numerous guest houses which are easily affordable. Tourist arrivals from India are growing briskly at around 10 to 15 per cent annually. A new runway and a new terminal afe fast nearing completion and once they are ready, we are certain tourists arrivals will be even higher," M.V. Jaadhulla, Deputy Counsel of Maldives based here, told IANS.
With the Maldivian government giving importance to tourism, earnings from this sector amount to almost 28 per cent of the country's GDP. It also accounts for more than 60 per cent of its foreign exchange receipts.
"We were a bit apprehensive when we decided to opt for Maldives. But after five days we felt our decision was the best. The beaches are excellent. They are all shallow and one can go wading deep into the sea. Moreover, the destination is not crowded and that's the biggest advantage for new couples," said a newly-married woman who did not want to be named.