The Maldives government on Monday (23 January) announced public tendering for the “lease, development, operation and management” of new resorts on 14 uninhabited islands or plot of lagoons.
With deadlines in late March, the tourism ministry invited bids for the acquisition of leaseholder rights for 50 years. A 36-month construction period was offered with nine of the islands and lagoons available for reclamation. The minimum lease acquisition cost ranges from US$200,000 to US$2.5 million with the lowest rates for islands in the northernmost atolls of Haa Alif and Haa Dhaal.
The announcement was made with a “special focus” on the north after the inauguration of a US$123 million project last week to upgrade the Hanimaadhoo International Airport, “which will need 8,000 tourist beds in coming years for smooth functioning” of the new hub, according to the tourism ministry.
Financed by a line of credit from the Indian EXIM Bank and contracted to the India-based JMC Projects, the project involves the construction of a new 2.46km runway and a terminal with the capacity to serve 1.3 million passengers annually. Once “completed and in operation by 2024,” it would be able to accommodate flights the size of Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, enabling direct connections from key locations across the globe.
The airport expansion was hailed as a “transformational” project that would “increase tourism facilities, including guesthouses and city hotels, drive job creation in the northern atolls, and transform the region into an economic hub.”
With the exception of the Kaashidhoo lagoon in Kaafu Atoll, the other locations up for bidding are all outside the central region, including five islands in the southern atoll of Huvadhu (Gaaf Alif and Gaaf Dhaal).
Aside from the proposed acquisition cost, the bid evaluation criteria includes higher scores for low carbon development or energy efficiency and commitments to hire more local and female staff.