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Fri 1 Jun 2007 12:00 AM

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Maldives to target mid-market

The Maldives' Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation has disclosed the country's plans to build more resorts, more airports and to attract the mid-market traveller.

The Maldives' Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation has disclosed the country's plans to build more resorts, more airports and to attract the mid-market traveller.

"Yes, the Maldives is a relatively expensive destination at present because there are not many rooms and the level of interest is unprecedented, but the image we want to portray is that we have products for the mid-market also," said Mahamood Shougee.

"We want to be able to offer something to the average traveller and we are making an effort to bring mid-range resorts to the Maldives."

The Maldives currently boasts 89 resorts with occupancies of 82%-85%. But 51 resorts are currently under construction with the aim of eventually creating a 50/50 mix of top-end and mid-market properties.

Shougee said because the Maldives was a free market, the government was not permitted to intervene and lower prices to attract more budget-conscious travellers.

"But with the 40% increase in beds anticipated by 2011, the prices should come down," he added.

Shougee also revealed that five new airports were to be built on reclaimed lagoons across the North and South atolls taking the Maldives' total to seven.

He claimed Emirates was considering flying to the new hub in the south and that charter airlines from Europe had scheduled flights to the new airports, each of which would be located near a mid-range property.

"We have more than 1000 islands and around 800 are uninhabited. But wherever we build, no more than 20% of the land area is taken up by the resort," Shougee said.

He also disclosed details of an initiative whereby private companies, the government and Maldives citizens jointly own tourism resorts.

The recently formed Tourism Development Corporation ensures the public have a 55% share of each project created, leaving the remaining 45% to the government and private ownership.

"The public will elect members of the board. No individual will own more than 0.1%," said Shougee. "This tri-party partnership will prove a model for the world."

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