Southern Addu City’s flagship guesthouse venture kicked off today with the council handing over 29 plots of land to an Indian company for the development of approximately 250 beds.
Speaking to Minivan News, Mayor Abdulla ‘Sobe’ Sodiq said SG18 Realty intends to develop between 10 and 15 room guesthouses on each plot of privately owned land.
Of the 29 plots, 17 are on the island of Hithadhoo, 10 in Maradhoo, and two in the Maradhoo-Feydhoo ward.
Landowners will receive land rent and ten percent of net profits from the guesthouses, Sobe said.
Guesthouse development on inhabited islands was a key election pledge of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, to which all members of the Addu City Council belong.
Opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed was also present at today’s ceremony.
The US$20 million Addu City Guesthouse Venture aims to develop 2000 guesthouse beds, five diving centers, six water sports centers, six restaurants and a sailing club in the Maldives’ second most populous region.
In addition to SG18 Realty, a Danish and a Dubai company have also expressed interest in developing guesthouses in Addu City, Sodiq said. The council is now evaluating the two remaining proposals.
The foreign developers have also expressed interest in managing and operating guesthouses, which could lead to the transfer of tourism money abroad, Sodiq admitted.
But the mayor said guesthouse tourism would allow locals to establish tourism related businesses such as laundry services, food and beverage, and entertainment.
“This is a bed and breakfast model. Even if foreign companies manage and operate the guesthouses, there will be a multitude of local businesses, such as restaurants, laundry services, souvenir shops, water sports, and diving centers. These businesses will benefit community and put money in the pockets of locals,” he said.
Once the buildings are completed, landowners would also have the opportunity to manage and operate businesses if they pay back 20 or 30 percent of the property value, Sodiq said.
However, majority of landowners do not want to operate the businesses, he said.
Addu City Council also intends to create jobs through the venture and will conduct training programs to train tour guides, lifeguards, and staff to manage guesthouses, he added.
“This project will benefit everyone in Addu, not only particular people,” Sodiq said.
“Most Addu City men spend their working lives outside their home island in resorts around the country. They only come home once or twice a year, for their children’s birthdays. They miss their children’s first steps, first day at school and sometimes do not even make it home for the birth of their children.”
“People are desperate. This venture is an opportunity for Addu resort workers to return home, work in their home islands, own or operate their own businesses.”
The guesthouse venture will also make Addu City’s Gan International Airport viable, Sodiq said.
At present there is only one guesthouse with eight beds registered in Addu City.
The Maldives’ tourism industry with over 100 resorts and nearly one million visitors per year brings in approximately US$2 billion annually.