Intl airport in Maldives proposed ultra-luxury tourism zone inaugurated

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Tuesday inaugurated a new international airport being developed in a proposed ultra-luxury tourism zone in the northern part of the Maldives.

During a visit to the island of Maafaru in Noonu atoll, the president unveiled the monument placed to inaugurate the island’s airport and harbour.

The airport had early this month welcomed a test flight.

Scheduled flights to the airport are expected to begin in mid-September, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) funded project set to be completed by the end of the year.

Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has earlier extended a grant of USD 60 million for the project, which involves developing a 2.2-kilometre runway along with state-of-the-art facilities to cater international flight operations and private jets. A city hotel will also be built along with the airport.

The international airport is part of a joint Maldives-UAE project to develop Noonu atoll as an ultra-luxury tourism zone.

Noonu atoll is located about 180 kilometres north of capital Male, on the southern edge of the Maldives’ northernmost geographical atoll.

Existing high-end resorts in Noonu atoll include the Velaa Private Island, The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, Cheval Blanc Randheli and the recently opened Soneva Jani. Several new resorts, including those by international hotel chains, are being developed in the atoll.

Over a million tourists from across the globe visit the Indian Ocean island nation every year to holiday in one of the 120 resorts and 400 plus guesthouses located in all corners of the country. The multi-billion dollar tourism industry, which is the country’s main economic activity, relies heavily on the domestic transport infrastructure, especially air travel.

Maldives, the most dispersed country on the planet with 1,192 islands spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres, already has 11 airports, including three international airports. The government has contracted both local and international companies to develop additional domestic airports across the archipelago in a bid to boost tourism.

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