Addu City Council has announced plans to kick-start a project aimed at attracting mid-market tourism to the region in a change of policy from the country’s established one resort per island policy.
Following in the footsteps of developments on the island of Gan in Laamu Atoll, Addu City authorities have said they will develop areas of the city as a Asseyri (Beachside) Project.
The project represents a tourism development plan by which guest accommodation, alongside recreation and entertainment facilities, will be developed in a specific area with each commercial component being rented out to different parties. The system differs from the country’s established tourism model that has generally been based on a single enterprise operating a resort property exclusively on a designated island.
The announcement of the Addu City project follows a cabinet decision made earlier this year to create an integrated tourism development policy.
“We have identified the areas we want to develop for the Asseyri project, and we have sent the proposals to the Tourism Ministry for approval,” says Abdullah Sodiq, Mayor of Addu City.
The two areas ear-marked for development under this project are the Maafishi Area of Hulhumeedhoo Island and the start of the Hankede area, Hithadhoo.
Moving away from the existing one island, one hotel tourism product, an Asseyri project aims to open up venues to allow larger numbers of local entrepreneurs to participate in the Maldives’ lucrative tourism sector.
The project will also open up doors for budget and mid-market tourists to visit Maldives, diversifying the Maldivian tourism product, according to developers.
A pilot Asseyri project was launched by the Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa in Gan in March. According to the proposed plans, two 300 bed hotels, 69 guest houses, as well as a number of restaurants, spas and sports/recreational facilities will be developed on the 25 hectares of land located on the western beach side of the island.
In trying to emulate the Gan project, Mayor Sodiq said “the Addu Assyeri project will also be a multi-owner project; with lodgings and other facilities like restaurants, spas and sports areas each being owned by a different enterprises.”
The proposals for the Addu project have now reportedly been drawn up and sent to the ministry for approval.
“The tourism ministry shared with us the details of their ongoing project at Gan and has been very supportive of our maiden venture into this area,” Sodiq said.
Addu City Council hopes the project will give a boost to the local economy by creating more job opportunities and helping with aims to increase the GDP of Addu Atoll within the next three years. It will also attract more visitors to the city which is already home to properties like Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort and Spa.
Tourism authorities in the country have also pledged to try and assist the Addu City beach-side developments.
“We are holding discussions with Addu City Council to plan their Asseyri project,” says Moosa Zameer Hassan, Deputy Director General at the Planning Department of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
Hassan added that the Tourism Ministry was currently working to change its approach to the Gan Asseyri project after evaluating project proposals that were submitted ahead of a June deadline.
“We received two proposals, one from a local company to do the water and sanitation component of [the project], the other from a foreign company to develop the hotel component. At present we are negotiating with both parties,” Hassan said. The initial idea for the project was to try and find a party interested in the total development of the whole area and to lease out the different components of it afterwards, though tourism authorities are now reviewing this.
“The area is very big that might be the reason [for the review]. So now we are going to put out a tender for the development of hotels and guest houses, and hold discussions with the local council for them to rent out the land plots for other components of the project like restaurants, spas, recreational facilities and such,” Hassan claimed.
Aslam Moosa, a representative for Gan Island Council said he and his fellow members had been kept in the dark regarding the project.
“Yes, I have seen the area marked on the map, and heard the announcement for the proposals, but nobody has held discussions with us on the project,” he added. Moosa claimed that the council was presently only involved in the development of a 300 bed hotel by an Indian Company in Gan.
Hassan confirmed that discussions have not been held since local councils were elected. in February. “But we hope to hold discussions with them and to be able to rent out plots of land within two months,” he said.
While the tender for hotels would be open to foreign parties, bidding for running guest houses will be only for locals, Hassan stressed.
“Guest houses have always been protected investments just for locals. By law, the Tourism Ministry’s involvement is vital as guest houses and hotels can only be leased by them. The ministry does not envisage giving priority to residents of the Atolls involved,” he said. “Bidding for guest accommodation will be a process open to all Maldivians. Though local councils can decide if they will prioritise residents of their island in the bidding for involvement in other components of the project.”
Meanwhile, Addu City Council has said it is finishing up the administrative work for the Asseyri project and would soon be drawing up the final plans.
“We are very confident that our proposed plan will be approved by the ministry. It will be well regulated, we will assign land areas and have a limit on the height of the buildings.”
The tentative date to complete the tender for the Addu Asseyri project is by September. However, Sodig says actual physical work on the project will be put off until December, to enable the scheduled 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to go without any hitches.