Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maldives invites bids to build luxury hotel in capital

The Maldives has invited international investors to bid for the right to construct the tropical nation's first luxury hotel on the island capital Male, officials said Thursday.

The proposed development is part of the Maldives' plan to attract a million tourists by 2010 and increase its hotel bed capacity some 80 percent to 36,700 by 2012.

The government has offered an area of 40,000 square feet (3,716 square meters) on a 25-year lease for the 200-bed hotel, Tourism Minister Mahamood Shougee told AFP.

Male, which measures one square mile (2.5 square kilometres), has over a dozen guest houses and small hotels but no five-star property.

"We don't really have a proper five-star hotel in the city, and we expect to fill the void with this proposed hotel development," Shougee said.

Bids are expected to close on September 16. No estimate has been given for the value of the project.

The successful bidder must also sell a 30 percent stake in the new venture through a stock market flotation within three years of signing the contract, according to the bidding rules. Shougee said the new hotel would be a replacement for Male's Nasandhura Palace Hotel, which is owned by the state and is to be demolished to make way for a city park.

Besides Nasandhura, the Maldivian government owns the Farukolhufushi Island and a substantial stake in the Hulhule Island Hotel.

Since opening its first two resorts with 280 beds in 1972, Maldives now has luxury resorts sitting on 89 coral islands, with occupancy rates averaging 95 percent.

A further 51 new islands were opened to investors last year to develop a combination of resort and hotels alongside 10 regional airports that are to be built.

South Asia's most exotic holiday destination attracts over 600,000 visitors each year, mostly celebrities and high spenders from Italy, Germany, Britain and Japan.

For the six months to June 2007, tourist arrivals rose 15 percent to 342,515, according to the Maldives Tourist Promotion Board, which is aiming for 690,000 visitors by the end of the year.

Holidaymakers have made Maldives the richest nation in South Asia, with a per capita income of 2,674 dollars. Tourism and fishing account for a large share of the nation's economy of just under one billion dollars.

Source: LBO

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