Intl airport in Maldives proposed ultra-luxury tourism zone welcomes maiden flight
An international airport being developed in a proposed ultra-luxury tourism zone in Maldives welcomed its maiden flight on Tuesday as it prepares to begin scheduled operations next month.
A test flight operated by Maldives flagship carrier Maldivian landed at the airport being built on the island of Maafaru in the northern Noonu atoll at 3.45pm with several dignitaries onboard, including tourism minister Moosa Zameer and top aviation officials.
After meeting top officials at the project site, minister Zameer told reporters that Maafaru International airport will serve as the main gateway to the proposed ultra-luxury tourism zone. It will help boost tourism related investments in the zone, which will house the most luxury tourist establishments in the Indian Ocean, he added.
“This is a very significant project for President Abdulla Yameen’s administration,” Zameer said.
The minister stressed that scheduled flights to the airport will begin in mid-September, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) funded project expected 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.