Addu City Council aims to assist in the development of 2000 guest house beds in six areas across the country’s southernmost atoll.
The council’s Guesthouse Tourism Promotion Board – to be established this week – will also oversee five diving centers, six watersports centres, six restaurants, and a sailing club.
“The biggest problem we have in Addu right now is lack of job opportunities. Adduans work in tourism all over the Maldives,” explained Mayor Abdulla ‘Soabe’ Sodiq.
“This venture will allow them to work in their home islands and also open up opportunities to start their own businesses.”
Guest house 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.
The party also campaigned in all recent elections with the pledge to strengthen decentralisation, pushing to increase the role of councils in development.
The US$20million venture is seen by the council as the best way to bring tourism development to the atoll which, despite being the country’s second largest urban area, is home to just 3.6 percent of the industry’s registered bed capacity.
With a recent tourist survey showing that 80 percent of tourists – who numbered over 1 million in 2013 – travel under an hour from Malé’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport to reach their destination, Addu’s council has also recognised Gan International Airport to be vital to the scheme.
Ahmed Hamed, owner of the atolls only registered guest house – the Charming Holiday Lodge in Meedhoo Island – also feels transport to be the key issue Addu’s full participation in the mid-market sector which has grown from just 22 to 171 registered businesses in five year.
Hamed suggested that the potential for expansion in the atoll is great, but will have to take place in tandem with airlines providing more, and cheaper flights to the atoll.
Less than an hour from the capital Malé, the average price of a domestic flight to Addu is currently similar in price to longer haul tickets to India or Sri Lanka, with Hamed noting that much of his time as a guest house owner has been spent campaigning to get cheaper deals from local carriers.
Having opened his business last year, Hamed already plans to triple his guesthouse’s bed capacity in the coming months.
“People will come to Addu – I have many friends who want to come,” said Ahmed. “If there are more guesthouses I’m sure this will be okay for the airlines.”
Echoing a figure given by the council, Hamed suggested 3000 beds to be the necessary size for a successful guest house industry in the atoll.
During today’s press conference, the council revealed that work to develop Gan Airport – formerly a British RAF base – was ongoing.
The council’s guesthouse promotion board will also assist prospective guest house owners in finding land for 25-year lease periods, in obtaining 70 percent of construction expense, in making connections with tour operators and management companies, as well as staff training
In a document detailing the venture, two sites in Hithadoo – the second largest populated island in the country – have been identified for new developments, as well as single sites in the neighbouring Maradhoo, Maradhoo-Feydhoo, Feydhoo, and across the lagoon in Hulhumeedhoo.
Those who are interested are requested to send a letter or an email to Addu City Council secretariat before 3:00pm on June 30.
Photo by: Naj