Push for mid-market tourism starts in Laamu Gan

The Maldives first resort-style tourist guest house to operate on a local inhabited island opened yesterday on Laamu Atoll Gan Island, the Maldives largest island (six kilometres squared) and three times the size of capitol Male’.

President Mohamed Nasheed attended the opening of Reveries Diving Village along with over 600 island residents, several government officials and a few representatives from neighboring resort Six Senses Laamu.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Nasheed said the guest house would benefit the island by providing jobs and boosting local industrial activity and income.

At the moment, a majority of the guest house is staff is Maldivian. “They are a very friendly group, not terribly experienced but very willing,” said Reveries Manager Boris A. Salam.

President Nasheed elaborated that industrial expansion on islands is directly proportional to government priority. To support development on all islands, the government is obliged to provide clean water, efficient sewerage systems and durable roads for its people, he said.

Reveries Diving Village was designed by a Maldivian architect and developed by BISON Maldives Pvt Ltd; it is owned by BISON Chairman Abdul Majeed. The President pointed out that Reveries is part of a larger push to expand tourism to inhabited islands and incorporate local businesses in the nation’s leading industry.

Re-inventing the Maldives’ traditional “one island one resort” theme, Reveries encourages guests to explore the local side of Gan through sight-seeing excursions, picnics, fishing trips and meals at local cafes, while maintaining a variety of standard resort services including a spa, conference facilities, PADI certified dive school and water sports facilities.

The location will also likely attract an ambitious surf community–famous surf points Yin Yang, Isdhoo Bank and Refugees Lefts are easy to access.

Offering 25 guest rooms and one villa for under US$200 per night (Rf 3000) and compliant with Shariah-based regulations, Reveries aims to serve the needs of vacationers, business folk and backpackers alike–foreign and Maldivian.

“The island life and serenity of Laamu Gan, added with the unique features such as a mythical freshwater lake that is estimated to be 60 meters deep and old Buddhist Temple ruins add distinctive value to any traveler,” reads a press release.

Manager Salam said he had received positive feedback about the guest house’s humble intent. “People said that from the outside the building doesn’t look like much, it could be anything. But when they come in they’re very nicely surprised, the design immediately makes you feel cozy,” he said, observing that the public beach area in front of the house adds a neighborhood feel.

Reveries is part of a string of recent developments on Laamu Gan, which is connected by causeways and bridges to three other islands in the atoll forming a total land area of approximately nine kilometres. The domestic airport on nearby Kadhoo island affords easy transportation to and from capital Male’, located 250 km to the North.

Harbours and a hospital developed by the French Red Cross have improved the economy and lifestyle of Laamu residents, and an international school is also expected to open this year.

The addition of Reveries appears to please Laamu residents. Reveries Manager Boris A. Salam said “people are curious, they’ve been popping in during the development stage to see what’s happening.”

According to a press release one lifetime resident, Hussein, said, “this is the happiest I have been after the opening of the airport. It will create a lot of jobs and opportunities for small business to grow. The success of Reveries will surely bring more investments to the region.”

Reveries plans to develop a second property in Laamu Gan later this year with Amin Construction Pvt. Ltd. The property will offer 20 rooms in 6 villas, along with a swimming pool and other food and beverage facilities.


Laamu Gan Asseyri project to proceed: Tourism Minister

The government has apologised for miscommunications which led to the “unfortunate” media coverage of a contract between the Ministry of Tourism and J Hotels and Resorts for a mid-market tourism center at Laamu Gan Asseyri Project, Tourism Minister Mariyam Zulfa has said.

“The Cabinet did not decide to cancel the contract, if you read the government gazette closely it just put the project on hold for some time. The intention was never to withdraw the agreement,” she explained.

Minivan News recently reported along with local media that the Cabinet had terminated its contract with J Hotels and Resorts and would solicit further bids for the project. Company chairman and former MP Abdulla Jabir issued emphatic warnings that he would sue the government.

Jabir today said he has been informed by the Minister that the Cabinet would approve the project.

“So far I’ve been advised that it will go forward, so we’ll see how things go. I don’t know what the Cabinet will do, one day they make a decision the other day they change it, but in time we will see how it proceeds,” he said.

Jabir reiterated that the Minister had assured him that the project would go forward, and that he had no bad relations with any ministry.

Speaking with Minivan News yesterday Zulfa said, “J Hotel and the Tourism Ministry were and are keen to get the project going, especially since the President has said that the mid-market project is a priority to the government and that it will make sure that project gets done.”

Given the project’s value, Zulfa said the Cabinet wanted to ensure that everything was in line with the government’s vision before proceeding with the agreement. She believed the Cabinet had not been provided with sufficient information to make an informed decision on the matter.

Zulfa said she has now presented all the relevant information to the Cabinet, and the project will move forward.

“The government enjoys a good relation with the development party, and we regret the unfortunate turn of events that led to this misunderstanding,” she said.

The Asseyri project, launched in March, aims to bring two 300-bed hotels and 69 guest houses to the 25 hectare area along with recreation activities, water sports and restaurants.

“Right now we can’t cater to the mid-market tourists who want to have options when they make a trip to or within the Maldives. This will give them that opportunity. And the basis of the project will be the natural beauty–the beach, lagoon and reef are absolutely fantastic,” said Zulfa.

She added that the mid-market project is designed in and around the airport development project, and will offer job opportunities and economic growth.

Moving away from the existing one island, one hotel tourism product, the Asseyri (beachside) project intends to rent out commercial components of an area to different parties, allowing larger numbers of local entrepreneurs to participate in the Maldives’ lucrative tourism sector.

In July, Addu City Council announced its intention to incorporate the project’s core values and aspects into Addu City’s development plan.

The two areas ear-marked for the project are the Maafishi Area of Hulhumeedhoo Island and the start of the Hankede area, Hithadhoo.