Former Tourism Minister Dr. Mariyam Zulfa has revealed that Virgin Airlines and Kingfisher Airlines had expressed interest in operating flights to Addu City during her time in office.
Zulfa served as the Tourism Minister during former president Mohamed Nasheed's administration.
Speaking at a forum organized by Addu Development Corporation (ADC) on increasing the number of tourist beds available in Addu City, Dr. Zulfa said several efforts were undertaken by the Tourism Ministry during her time as minister. Dr. Zulfa said she recalls a conversation with Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Airlines, during which he had stated that if 2,000 mid-range beds were available at a single location, his airline was ready to operate to that destination. Zulfa said Branson had shared his contact details, and asked the minister to contact him when 2,000 beds are arranged.
Similarly, Kingfisher Airline's owner Vijay Mallya had expressed the same sentiments, said Dr. Zulfa. Mr. Mallya said he wished to see 2,500 beds at a single location, she elaborated. The ministry put in a lot of effort to meet the goals, and discussed it with several prominent businesses, including the owners of Herethere Resort in Addu City, said the former minister. However, it was not feasible to attain such a goal at that time, and the administration changed soon after that, she added.
Addu City boasts an international airport of its own. Sri Lankan Airlines flew to the airport during the pre-COVID-19 period, although the operation is now at a halt. One of the reasons for this is due to COVID-19, as well as the government's failure to implement several works at the airport.
It has been a long time since efforts have been ongoing to develop tourism in Addu City. However, the industry has not flourished in the southernmost atoll to date. Although Gan International Airport was developed for tourism development purposes, the establishment of the target number of beds have not been achieved to date. However, if the number of beds in Huvadhoo atoll is counted together with those available in Addu atoll, the number of beds available exceed 2,500 beds.