Chinese firm kicks off resort development on Feydhoo Finolhu island
A Chinese firm on Tuesday kick-started the development of a resort on Feydhoo Finolhu, the nearest uninhabited island to capital Male and the main airport.
Government had last year leased the island, which had been used by the police welfare company, to an unidentified Chinese company for USD 4 million.
In a statement, police said the project was inaugurated by police chief Ahmed Areef at a ceremony held on the island Tuesday afternoon. The ceremony was attended by high ranking police officers as well as top officials from the Chinese company, they added.
The police did not identify the Chinese company either, but said the island would be developed and managed by Pearl Atoll, a joint venture by the Chinese investor and an undisclosed local company.
“The resort will come into operation in 2019,” the statement read.
According to the police, the developer will donate USD 85 million for police welfare within the 50-year lease period. Police officers and their families will also receive special offers and services once the resort is operational, they said.
Feydhoo Finolhu was the first island leased after the Tourism Act was amended last year to allow closed bidding for islands for resort development.
After the amendment came into effect, the tourism 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 Feydhoo Finolhu.
The list has been amended five times over the past year, with several islands and lagoons added to it.
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, the Maldives has attracted 1,246,501 tourists over the past 11 months — a 6.8 percent increase from the 1,166,605 in the same period of last year.