Maldives plans $3b investments

Thursday, 7 May 2009 08:38

The Maldives Tourism office is attracting investors to develop 60 of its exotic islands in projects worth $3 billion.

Dr Ahmad Ali Sawad, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, said the government is focusing on four main areas, including facility development, training, medium-grade resorts and the diversification of tourism products such as eco-tourism to support the country's development.

"Since the 1980s, after entrepreneurs started entering the country, we experienced a steady rise in tourism, which has now become a major factor contributing to the economy," said Sawad.

In developing the islands within the next few years, smaller communities will be able to thrive and sustain themselves. At least 9,000 extra bed spaces will be developed, hundreds of jobs will be created and community-based tourism will help preserve local culture and heritage. Development of its international airport at Hulhule is also expected to improve capacity and services.

Although the Maldives is fundamentally considered to be a luxury high-end destination, Sawad believes catering to the average traveller will boost the tourism industry further.

"Let's face it: we are in a crisis at the moment during which time outgoing traffic is slowing down," he said "However, we feel we have a unique offering and will focus more on small and medium accommodation to cater to budget travellers."

Promotional campaigns that aim to attract a higher number of visitors from the Middle East will also be put into place soon. At the moment, travellers from the region make up less than two per cent, with the highest number of travellers being from the UK. That group is followed by Italy, Germany and China and Russia.

"It is as good a time as any to attract more Middle Eastern travellers when a substantial number of routes are offered," added Sawad.

"Still, we are looking at better access to the region through further direct routes, applying consistent exposure and a marketing campaign that pushes brand awareness."

The government foresees that with a rise in visitor numbers, there will be a huge demand for a more efficient transport system linking the islands.

gulfnews.com

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