Maldives wants new airports for resort islands

July 18, 2007 (AFP) – Maldives is seeking international investors to help build ten regional airports as part of a plan to develop nearly three dozen resort islands, a minister said on Wednesday.

“We plan to build 10 domestic airports packaged with tourist resorts, to make it economically feasible to investors. The tenders will go out later this year,” Maldivian tourism minister, Mahmood Shaugee, told AFP.

The government plans to develop the 35 resort islands over the next two years. The exotic South Asian holiday location attracts over 600,000 visitors each year, mostly Europeans.

About 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka, Maldives is a string of 1,192 coral islands scattered across the equator.
Some 199 are inhabited with 87 islands developed as tourist resorts, according to a recent World Bank study.

The government last year signed up investors to develop the 35 resort islands, which will help raise the local hotel industry’s bed capacity to 23,000 within the next three years from 20,000 currently.

Maldivian resorts, favoured by celebrities, report over 90 percent occupancy.

“We’re confident we can easily fill the new resorts,” Shaugee said. The low