The India-Maldives Travel Bubble; what is it and what are its advantages?

The India-Maldives Travel Bubble; what is it and what are its advantages?

In early 2021, the governments of India and the Maldives announced a bilateral arrangement to create an air travel bubble, the first of its kind in South Asia.

Bubbles or also known as “transport bubbles” or “air travel arrangements” are temporary aviation arrangements between two countries to restart commercial passenger services while scheduled international flights are suspended. Bubbles are reciprocal in nature, meaning that airlines from both countries that join the arrangement will enjoy equal or similar benefits.

Under the bubble arrangement between the two countries, Maldivian nationals, residents and foreign nationals holding valid Maldivian visas, as well as Indian nationals can travel from India to Maldives at their own discretion, at the airline’s discretion.

Likewise, Indian nationals, all Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders and Origin of India (PIO) cardholders holding passports from any country, foreigners, including diplomats holding valid Indian visas as per current guidelines, are eligible from Maldives to India.

At the same time, the concept of travel bubbles is relatively new in the airline industry, and many may question the origins of the concept.

What exactly is a “travel bubble”?

In addition to the aforementioned names, the Travel Bubble is also known as the “Travel Bridge” or “Corona Corridor”. As mentioned earlier, a related objective is to restart commercial passenger services between countries that have entered the travel bubble arrangement. This is achieved by shortening the waiting period for “selected traveler groups” from certain countries that already contain Covid-19 cases.

“In a ‘travel bubble’, a group of countries agree to open their borders to each other but keep them closed to all other countries. So people can move freely inside the bubble, but not from outside,” says an Oxford University the researchers wrote.

How does the “travel bubble” work?

Countries joining these arrangements are investing their time and energy with a bit of risk and trust; at this point, each partner country trusts the other in its ability to contain the virus through over-testing, contact tracing, and effective quarantining. That’s why some have suggested that the best or best time to create a travel bubble is when there are no more cases in the two countries joining the arrangement, to ensure a low risk of allowing travelers from the other country.

The researchers also noted that “travel bubbles could also make sense if neighboring countries had similar numbers of cases and responded identically to the pandemic.”

What good is it?

First, travel bubbles aim to focus efforts on rebuilding or reviving flagging tourism industries in partner countries. Take Australia and New Zealand, for example. The former accounts for nearly 40 per cent of New Zealand’s international tourists, and tourism is the country’s largest export industry.

Likewise, when it comes to the Maldives-India relationship, the latter happens to be one of the strongest source markets for the tourism industry of the former. In 2021, India ranks second among the top ten tourist source markets, after the Maldives. According to reports, by the end of December 2021, the number of people traveling from India to the Maldives on an annual basis exceeded 200,000.

At the same time, India is one of the main destinations for Maldives tourism. Medical tourism is the most niche.

So, if done right, travel bubbles are designed to provide economic benefits to partner countries based on their mutual relationship.

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