Abdu Dhabi-funded intl airport in Maldives ultra-luxury tourism zone opens

A new airport developed in a proposed ultra-luxury tourism zone in the northern part of Maldives opened Sunday.

The first commercial flight, operated by flagship carrier Maldivian, landed at Maafaru International Airport Sunday morning.

The official opening ceremony took place in the afternoon. Planning minister Mohamed Aslam officiated the ceremony.

Maldivian will operate a daily service between the main Velana International Airport and Maafaru International Airport, built on land reclaimed from the lagoon of the island of Maafaru in Noonu atoll.

The flagship carrier’s parent company Island Aviation Services Limited (IAS) will manage the airport.

Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) had extended a grant of USD 60 million for the project, which involved developing a 2.2-kilometre runway along with state-of-the-art facilities to cater international flight operations and private jets.

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 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 140 resorts and 450 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 13 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.

Government had earlier announced plans to open five new airports this year. However, only two — a domestic airport on the island of Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal atoll and Maafaru airport — opened so far.

Construction of airports on the islands of Funadhoo in Shaviyani atoll, Madivaru in Lhaviyani atoll and Maavarulu in Gaaf Dhaal atoll is nearing completion.

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