Maldives, Singapore ink pact to boost air connectivity

Maldives and Singapore inked an agreement on Monday to expand air connectivity in a bid to further boost tourism and economic ties between the two Asian countries.

The updated Air Services Agreement was one of two Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) signed during Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s ongoing state visit to Singapore. Signing of both the updated Air Services Agreement and a second MoU on stepping up bilateral exchanges and cooperation was witnessed by the Maldivian president and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

With the updated Air Services Agreement, airlines of the Maldives and Singapore will be able to operate as many passenger flights or cargo services as they want between and beyond both countries.

“[The agreement] underscores the strong bilateral ties between Singapore and Maldives, and will enable greater movement of people and goods between the two countries to benefit both our economies,” Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min, who signed the air pact with Maldives’ foreign minister Abdulla Shahid, said.

Meanwhile, Singaporean President Halimah Yacob said that since diplomatic ties were established in 1975, the links between the two countries and its peoples have been growing steadily. The Open Skies Agreement will bring the people and businesses of both countries even closer together, she added.

“Air connectivity is a crucial lifeline for our economies. It supports tourism and connects people and services,” President Halimah said, during a state luncheon hosted in honour of the visiting Maldivian president.

The Singaporean president stressed that Singapore Airlines was one of the first airlines to start direct flights to and from the Maldives in 1984. This supports the strong presence of Singaporean companies such as Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts and Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) in the Maldives, and the thousands of Maldivian visitors to Singapore every year, she added.

Currently, Singaporean carriers operate a total of 20 weekly services to the Maldives capital Male, with Singapore Airlines operating a daily service between Singapore Changi Airport and the Maldives’ main Velana International Airport.

Despite a slight decline in tourist arrivals to the Maldives from Singapore last year, the number of Singaporean visitors has increased in the first five months of this year. Official figures show that 5,187 Singaporeans visited the Maldives during the January-May period — a 13.8 per cent increase over the same period last year.

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