MMPRC and the tourism sector’s efforts to increase the inflow of tourists may result in additional flights coming in and new market openings. Then again, is there any positive impact without a new terminal at Velana International Airport or direct flights to regional international airports such as Maamigili, Maafaru, Gan or Hanimaadhoo? What is your take?

PUBLISHED October 05, 2022

Ahmed Afrah
Managing Director
Canopus Maldives
As Maldives aims for 2 million tourist arrivals in the coming year, it is increasingly crucial for the government to ramp up the work to complete the Velana International Airport (VIA). With the current forecasted arrival figure of 1.6 million for this year, the bottleneck created by VIA is evident. A solution to this which the government already seems to be doing is to encourage more international flights to have direct flights to other international airports in the country. However, many obstacles exist for this and the best solution still remains to complete VIA as soon as possible.
Direct flights to regional International Airports will boost the benefits of tourism to the local community, providing a sustainable income to the residents.
I would suggest having a working committee composed of tourism sector’s NGOs, airport companies, domestic airlines and government chaired by the Planning Minister who is involved in designing the airports to find practical solutions!
It is very encouraging to see MMPRC and Tourism stakeholders promoting the destination individually or collectively. With many countries slowly moving out of COVID guidelines, it is expected that tourist distribution too will get divided among many countries. It is a huge challenge for Maldives as the brand has already gone into the minds of the global tourism sector, sustaining the mindset will have to be done through continuous brand marketing. While the efforts are being established by the stakeholders to sustain the Maldives share, it is important that the promise of an up end product is delivered, including external elements such as state of the art CIP lounge facility, TMA new terminal is being inaugurated. However the key is tackling the congestion on arrival and at departure of Velana. When a guest pays for a premium holiday, nobody wants an unpleasant arrival or even tiring departure after a good holiday. With the gradual build up of Japan and South Korea arrivals and expected China border opening, operations at Velana are not going to get any better. With the very slow progress of the new terminal, the opening year might keep getting pushed. Expansion at the current terminal is limited. This situation surely requires highest priority attention as no airline or resort doesn’t want to deliver substandard service to their guests. It is best that all stakeholders put their efforts and minds to think out of the box. Situation should be looked at in a broader perspective. The Government of Maldives has spent considerable amounts of money to develop regional airports readily available for usage. If it happens, certainly the premium product which the destination is marketing will have some value addition. Once the stakeholders fix the convenient transfers from the regional airports to the resorts, I’m confident that more airlines will consider operating direct flights to those smaller locations!
Despite the development of several international airports in the Maldives, the congestion at VIA will only be minimized with national carriers directly flying to regional locations of Maldives.
Without a proper terminal at VIA, I believe even if we manage to secure more tourists or charter flights into the country, there may be less positive outcomes. As the gateway is a very key part of the experience guests will have in the Maldives. Rather than focusing on a single entry point to the country it’s high time we also try to distribute traffic to these outstation airports, Maafaru is one of the highest potential airports for jets or upmarket charters. Maamigili can be used to cater additional traffic as well and Gan should be given priority as this is an airport with high potential; should we have a good domestic transportation network.