THE Maldives is set to open 35 new islands to tourist development, according to Abdulla Mausoom, director general, Maldives Tourism Promotion Board.
“Maldives Tourism already has 88 developed islands, but there is a demand for more, especially in the mid-market sector,” he says, adding that the country’s resorts have been overbooked since December. Ten islands with an estimated 766 resort beds have already been put on tender. Another 10 will soon follow, while 15 are to be awarded to a proposed public company for tourism development.
While the concepts for each island are to be decided after the final bidding process is complete, Mausoom says the board expects them to be developed into luxury small resorts. “So we are expecting a lot of interest from investors, especially from the UAE and the region.” Each island has about 20-30 interested parties making bids.
The emphasis, he says, is on new and unique tourism concepts. “Maldives as a destination is very unique. Our concepts are unique, from an under-water restaurant to an under-water spa, the world’s largest spa and water-villa. So once new developers come to Maldives, they have to compete with each other to ensure they have the best product.” Any new concepts introduced, however, must be within the framework of the environmental guidelines of Maldives as a destination.
In terms of Middle Eastern traffic, Mausoom says only about two per cent are nationals from the region, but expatriates residing in the region comprise a large number, too. “Many of the arrivals from the Middle East are actually expatriates, so they account to their source markets. A Briton visiting the Maldives, though an expat living in the UAE, is counted as a British tourist.”
This year, the country is focusing on the consumer. “We need to reach out to more consumers and are targeting specific markets like divers or honeymooners. Football fans are another segment, we would like them to come and watch the World Cup in the Maldives.”
by Keith J Fernandez
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