It is expected that the expansion of Hanimaadhoo International Airport with an investment of MVR 2 billion will change the entire tourism and trade landscape in northern Maldives. What are the pros and cons from this project?

PUBLISHED March 05, 2023

Ibrahim Ali Jaleel
Vice President
Direct international flights will pave the way to grow the tourism sector in the region, which will change the entire trade system in the region. HIA will create business opportunities and jobs in the region. Hanimaadhoo is about 30 minutes by air to India and now with many budget and commercial airlines, and 1 in 3 Indians being in the middle income band means we can consider India as the major arrivals. To cater the demand of this new Airport, we need to create at least 10,000 beds in the region, and upgrade the port in the region, to facilitate the goods and support services. Furthermore we need to train and upgrade the skills of the people in the region, for these new businesses coming to the region. One of the Major challenges is to get the required youths from the region as we have a limited population.
Expansion of airports is a good initiative as it diversifies the international airports but without funding for the necessary beds (single borrower limits and over exposure to tourism sector etc…) the beds cannot come , hence without the funding the airports cannot become the catalyst. Maldives also needs to change from Fitch C rating to B rating , national airline and ports need to come as well.
I think this is not required and the Government should spend this money to develop VIA instead. If we have a surplus budget then we can do these nice projects. For me, it's nice to have an airport similar to GAN. About GAN airport , I don't think that the airlines are not coming there because of lack of facilities. Runway is good enough to land the Airbus A330, Terminal is good enough to cater the A330 full load capacity, and the fuel firm is there. Hanimaadhoo is not going to change the tourism landscape as portrayed. Airport is just one component of the tourism landscape. VIA can change the landscape and have potential to make it a transit hub for East to West traffic.