Government has awarded a contract to Island Aviation Services (IAS) to develop a domestic airport and two city hotels in the up-and-coming tourist zone of Raa atoll.
At a ceremony held on Wednesday, tourism minister Moosa Zameer and IAS Managing Director Abdul Haris signed an agreement with the state owned company, which operates flagship carrier Maldivian.
Minister Zameer told reporters that IAS will develop an airport on the island of Fainu along with two city hotels, a medical centre, a surgical recovery centre, a hangar to service Maldivian aircraft, and a training academy for Maldivian staff.
“The existing airport on Ifuru island is very distant from the inhabited islands in Raa atoll. Fainu will resolve that issue,” the minister said.
Haris said the project will be carried out in three phases, with the first being the development of the airport. The airport, which will be developed with runway edge lights for night flights, will be operational within a year, he added.
According to Haris, funds for the USD 8 million project will be raised through advance air ticket sales. Leading resort operator Universal Resorts and several other resorts in Raa atoll have already provided their share of the ticket sales, he said.
Speaking at the ceremony, Universal Chairman Mohamed ‘MU’ Umar Maniku stressed the need to develop more domestic airports to complement the ongoing expansion of the main Velana International Airport. The proposed airport in the island of Fainu will ease guest transfer for existing resorts in the atoll and boost tourism in the region, he added.
“This is a very sound plan,” Maniku, who also serves as the chairman of state airport operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), said.
Raa atoll is currently home to several resorts, including Dhigali Maldives, Kudafushi Resort and Spa, Adaaran Select Meedhupparu, and Furaveri Island Resort and Spa. Several new islands are also being developed as resorts.
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.