Maldives would kick-start the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) funded project to establish the archipelago's first Islamic resort before the end of the year, Maldives Centre for Islamic Finance (MCIF) announced Tuesday.
In an exclusive interview with Avas, MCIF chairperson Dr Aishath Muneeza that efforts are underway to introduce 'Halal' tourism to the Maldives aided by IDB's Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD).
"Government has already given us an island. Now we're engaged in the procedural and administrative aspects of the project. We started on it with the promise of IDB funds. Hopefully we can get started on the project this year," Muneeza explained.
Muneeza said the development concept and the bed capacity is yet to be finalized.
"It's not been long since the government leased the island to us. So I can only comment after the legal documents are completed," she added.
Huge potential for Halal tourism
Despite Maldives being one of the world's most globally renowned tourism brands, the archipelago has missed out by not having an Islamic resort.
"As soon as people hear the name Maldives, they say its a famous honeymoon destination. But Maldives being a 100 percent Muslim country a lot of people keep asking why isn't there a Halal tourism option? If we our progress is to continue we must focus on our biggest strength. That's why we're looking at this," she explained.
"There is so much we can achieve by establishing ourselves as a niche market for halal tourism. If Maldives starts to promote Halal tourism than no one can compete with us. Because no one else the resources we do."
Establish soverign wealth fund
According to Muneeza, the primary objective of the IDB funded project was to establish a soverign wealth fund.
"We're looking to link Islamic tourism with a soverign wealth fund. With that link, we're looking to establish a system to generate revenue. We've already received the green light from the president's office. So this is a mega project," she said.
She also said the aim was to not only prohibit pork and alcohol from the resort, but to set up the entire operation that would be 100 percent Islamic.
"We need Islamize the entire line. For example, from welcoming tourists to the services and facilities available at the resort. From small things to the significant ones."