8,000 tourist beds needed to run an airport successfully: Tourism Minister

Tourism Minister Dr. Abdulla Mausoom has said over 8,000 tourist beds are needed to run an airport in a region successfully.

Responding to a question by Kulhudhuffushi North MP Yasir Abdul Latheef at Tuesday's Parliament sitting, Minister Mausoom said that 1,724 tourists beds are registered in Haa Alif, Haa Dhaal, and Shaviyani atolls, including resorts, hotels, and guesthouses. Out of these, 1,524 are in operation, he said.

The minister said the first phase of Haa Dhaal Dhipparufushi and Haa Dhaal Naagoashi would be opened over the next two years and that the number of beds would increase with their launch. He said Haa Alif Berinmadhoo, Shaviyani Hurasfaru, Naainfaru, and Kan'baalifaru are expected to open within the next three years, adding 1,360 beds. Additionally, 404 beds are expected to be added from Haa Alif Kelaa, Haa Alif Utheemu, and Haa Alif Vashavaru under the Registered Hotel Development project.

Minister Mausoom said there would be 3,700 beds in the northern part of the Maldives within the next three years. However, this number is still significantly less compared to the 8,000 beds required for successful airport operation, he said.

Noting that the Hanimaadhoo International Airport development project is underway, the minister said the airport is expected to handle 1,780 passengers daily at full capacity once it is in operation. In the first year, 300 tourists are expected to arrive daily, and the capacity will increase based on the number of beds available in the region, he said.

The minister said airports are important for tourism and that a reliable transportation system was also essential. He noted that RTL ferry services are now available in Haa Alif, Haa DHaalu, and Shaviyani atoll. He further noted that reliable electricity, water, sewerage, and internet services are necessary for hotels and guesthouses.

Noting that hotels and guesthouses require large investments, the minister said homestay guesthouses, for which large investments are not necessary, have now been facilitated.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced in September that he aims to develop 8,000 tourism beds in the Bodu Thiladhunmathi region within the next five years. He said the Hanimaadhoo airport development project would boost tourism in the region. Presidential Spokesperson Miuwan Mohamed later clarified that the 8,000 beds in that region would not be developed by the government but rather by investors.

JMC Projects Limited of India has now been awarded the contract for the development of Hanimaadhoo International Airport. According to the Economic Ministry, the project was awarded to JMC for $136.6 million --MVR 2.1 billion.

The Hanimaadhoo airport development project will include a 2.46 km runway and a brand new terminal with a capacity to cater to 1.3 million passengers per annum. Other facilities needed to expand international flights will also be established. The practical work of the project is scheduled to begin later this year and will be completed and in operation in 2024.