Maldives to offer 11 new islands for resort development

May 28, 2008 (AFP) – The Indian Ocean island of the Maldives plans to open 11 new islands to foreign investors to develop upmarket tourist resorts, an official said Wednesday. The government is also building 10 new regional airports to compliment the booming resort development and allow locals to commute quickly between the chain of 1,192 islands.

About 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka, Maldives is a magnet for upmarket tourists, where guests pay up to 14,500 dollars a night to scuba dive and sleep in wooden cabins built over turquoise blue waters.

Tourism accounts for over a third of Maldives’ economy of just under a billion dollars.

It has enabled the nation of 369,000 people, mainly Sunni Muslims, to emerge as the richest in South Asia, with a per capita income of 3,400 dollars. The new resorts, some to be built on reclaimed land, will add to the 33 resorts islands currently under development, the island’s Planning Ministry executive director Mohamed Shareef told AFP by telephone.

“The government wants to build resorts on the outskirts of some of the highly populated islands, to bring tourism development closer to the local communities,”