“Tourism begins here. The resort begins here.”
Plaza Premium Lounge Executive Director Linda Song described the newly-opened Koimala Executive Lounge at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) as “everyone’s apartment” during today’s inaugural event, which included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, speeches and a reception.
The lounge, which includes three sitting rooms, two verandas, a kitchen and a presidential sitting room, is part of GMR Infrastructure Ltd.’s project to expand and upgrade INIA by June 2014. GMR shares the venture with Malaysian Airports Holdings Berhad in a 77 to 33 percent relationship.
During a tour of the facility, Mrs Song commented on the facility of working with GMR. “I think its international experience has shaped GMR as a very flexible, open-minded company,” she said.
Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa made a similar observation during the opening ceremony, reinforcing her praise of GMR from the earlier opening of INIA’s Plaza Premium Lounge.
“GMR is a company that listens to the stakeholders in the tourism industry, and that pleases the government to no end. I’m always delighted to come to the airport with stakeholders from the industry to open the dialogue for tourism,” she said.
Noting that Plaza Premium was invited to undertake the project only four months ago and with the caveat that the area is due for demolition in two years’ time, Zulfa said the lounge was an impressive and valuable accomplishment.
“Everything to do with the socioeconomic development of the Maldives should center arround tourism,” she said. “Because tourism, of course, is our number one industry, and everything we do should center around making the product even more perfect than it is today.”
For a reservation of US$150, VVIP lounge guests are relieved of their luggage at a private security screening while their flights are monitored and their schedules arranged by the lounge concierge. Meanwhile, guests can enjoy an open kitchen and cafe, wi-fi, plasma screen televisions, and spacious seating arrangements.
Plaza Premium Lounge Management Ltd currently services 17 international airports and 60 locations with infrastructural development. The Hong Kong-based company is the world’s first ‘pay-in’ lounge.
Several people noted that the lounge’s opening was well-timed with the SAARC summit, which will bring heads of state from across the region to the Maldives.
Plaza Premium Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Song Hoi See said he did not agree with the project’s constraints but appreciated the challenge.
“Airports and tourism don’t always work together. But the Maldives is a special place, and the airport is the first and last place to impress the tourists,” he said, adding that he anticipated the new airport’s design.
Mrs Song attributed the success to Plaza Premium’s high level of preparation to overcome constraints of the Maldives’ industry. “We are well planned, and we shipped most interior design materials here pre-made. There aren’t many resources here for interior design development, so it would have been difficult otherwise.”
Designer Kinney Chan said the project was enjoyable in spite of the short notice. “It’s great to do something for comfort here, to blend with the resort feel, without getting too heavy.”
GMR CEO Andrew Harrison noted that the design had improved a formerly low-ceiling, dark room by bringing in natural light and creating “a home feel, supported by the excellent service that staff provides.”
“It’s a beautiful country full of beautiful people, and now we’ve delivered a beautiful lounge to match that,” Harrison concluded.