Maldives sets up association to promote tourism in south

A special organisation has been set up to expand and promote tourism in the southern atolls of Maldives.

The Equatorial Travel and Tourism Association (ETA), which is an initiative of the Addu City Council, was inaugurated late last month with a seven-member governing board.

The board is chaired by Mohamed Waheed, the Manager of Equator Village in Addu, with Abdulla ‘Tom’ Tayyib, former Deputy Mayor of Addu and owner of Aquaventure dive school, serving as the deputy and Misbah Nazeer from Discover Addu as the Secretary General. Other members include Mariyam Gasim, Moosa Haneef, Ahmed Nadeem and Ibrahim Shazim.

Addu Mayor Abdulla ‘Soabe’ Sodiq told local daily Mihaaru that ETA would work on developing and expanding mid-market tourism in Addu, Fuvahmulah, Laamu atoll as well as Gaafu Alif and Gaafu Dhaal atolls.

“Our main concern is the challenges faced by international airlines to operate scheduled flights to the Gan International Airport. SriLankan Airlines is already facing major challenges due to the few number of beds here,” he said.

“We’ll conduct joint promotional activities with SriLankan Airlines, and facilitate investment opportunities in the region.”

Maldives, known world over for its upmarket tourism industry, has resorts in the hundreds spread across the archipelago. The industry has in recent years expanded to introduce more affordable segments, including guesthouses and liveaboards.

Despite several new resort developments and a boom in guesthouse tourism in the Maldives, Addu as a whole has lagged behind for years in attracting tourism-related investments. The relatively large atoll, which has unique geographical features compared to other parts of the island nation, is home to only two of the some 120 tourist resorts in the Maldives; Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa, and Canareef Resort Maldives.

However, tourism in the south has recently received a much needed boost from the launch of direct flights to Gan International Airport by SriLankan Airlines.

Neighbouring Sri Lanka’s flagship carrier, which is particularly popular amongst tourists who travel to the Maldives from Europe, currently operates six weekly flights to Gan from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.

Meanwhile, government has launched an ambitious project, which is expected to cost USD20-25 million, in a bid to add 3,000 tourist tourist beds to Addu.

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