Maldives opens closed bidding for three islands, two lagoons in north for resort development

Maldives tourism ministry has opened closed bidding for three uninhabited islands and two lagoons in the northernmost part of the country for resort development.

The islands up for lease include Kudafarufasgandu, Kudamuraidhoo and Keylakunu in Haa Dhaal atoll. Two lagoons — 72°53’39.04”E 6°37’43.42”N and 72°53’2.55”E 6°34’56.29”N — in the atoll have also been put up for lease.

The bid invitation comes days after President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom announced plans to develop 1,500 tourist beds in Haa Dhaal atoll, in a bid to introduce tourism to the northern atoll, which currently lacks any resorts.

President Yameen had stressed that these new developments would be worth over USD 200 million. Some 40,000 new jobs would be created in the region through these investments, he had said.

Haa Dhaal remains as the only atoll in the Maldives which does not have a tourist resort. Plans to develop a resort on the island of Naagoashi in the atoll have stalled.

The Tourism Act was amended last year 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 the leasing of Feydhoofinolhu in Kaafu atoll to a Chinese company for USD 4 million.

The list has been amended five times over the past year, with several 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 20 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 statistics, tourist arrivals to the Maldives over the year have crossed the one million mark.

Photo: Kudamuraidhoo in Haa Dhaal atoll. PHOTO/ ATOLLSOFMALDIVES

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