Maldives readies to kick-start much awaited resort project in south
Maldives is gearing up to launch a much awaited resort development project in the southern part of the country as a local contractor announced the closing of a deal for the leasing of the uninhabited island of Ismehela Hera in the southernmost Addu atoll.
Tourism minister Moosa Zameer told attendees of an investment forum in Addu on Saturday that a local company had won the bid for the island and had already paid the acquisition cost. The company is preparing to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project — a requirement by law for any major development project, he added.
“The island will be developed into a 150 bed resort,” Zameer said, during the investment forum held at the Equator Village city hotel in Addu.
Local media reported that the local company that won the bid for Ismehela Hera already has business interests in tourism and fish export, and serves as the local agent for several international airlines. The unnamed company has reportedly forayed into the insurance industry as well.
Development of a tourist resort on the island of Ismehela Hera has long been planned out with the project making headlines as recently as 2015 when the government announced that it was in talks with two foreign investors that had expressed interest in developing the island. Minster Zameer told local journalists at the time that the resort would have at least 600 beds.
The announcement was followed by the launch of Ismehela Hera Integrated Resort Development Project on April 28, 2015 by President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. No progress, however, has been made since then.
The latest initiative to develop Ismehela Hera is part of a new push by the government to develop tourism in the southernmost Addu. A state owned enterprise launched a project last week to develop 3,000 guesthouse beds in Addu to cater to backpackers and budget travellers.
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 & 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 four weekly flights to Gan from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo and is expected to increase frequency on the route to six flights per week from September.