Maldives opens bidding for three more islands for resort development

Maldives on Monday opened closed bidding for another three uninhabited islands for resort development.

In an announcement, tourism ministry said Villingili in the northern Raa atoll, and Hulhimendhoo and Odegalla in the southern Gaafu Alif atoll are up for lease. The 3.6-hectare Villingili carries an estimated acquisition cost of USD 2.7 million, while the acquisition cost of the 5.2-hectare Hulhimendhoo and the 0.77-hectare Odegalla are estimated to be USD 650,00 and USD 96,250 respectively, it added.

The Tourism Act was amended in 2016 to allow closed bidding for islands for resort development.

After the amendment came into effect, the ministry put up for lease 14 uninhabited islands and two lagoons for tourism development. Details on the progress of the sale are yet unclear, except for the leasing of Feydhoofinolhu in Kaafu atoll to a Chinese company for USD 4 million.

The list has been amended several times, with more islands and lagoons added to it.

Local laws allow tourism leases of up to 100 years.

Over the past five years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers. Several international brands have entered into the market, increasing the number of resorts to 120. That number is set to increase as the government has announced the opening of some 24 new resorts over the next two years.

Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 450 guesthouses in operation today.

The government has recently announced new steps to maintain a structured growth in tourism, including a slowdown in leasing islands for resort development and increased marketing efforts in key markets such as China and the Middle East in order to reach an ambitious target of a record 1.5 million tourist arrivals this year.

According to the latest figures, tourist arrivals to the Maldives for the first five months of the year increased by 10.6 percent to reach 632,729 compared to the 572,318 in the same period of last year.

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