A domestic airport being developed in a key population centre in the northern part of Maldives welcomed its maiden flight on Wednesday.
A test flight operated by flagship carrier Maldivian left the main Velana International Airport at 2.20pm and landed at the airport being built on the island of Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal atoll at 3.10pm with several dignitaries onboard, including tourism minister Moosa Zameer and top aviation officials.
Six hectares off the southern coast of Kulhudhuffushi and another nine hectares from the island’s wetlands were reclaimed for the airport.
Construction of a runway measuring 1,200 metres in length and 60 metres in width completed early this week. However, the terminal and other support facilities are yet to be built.
Known as the “Heart of the North”, Kulhudhuffushi is the economic capital of the northern Maldives and has a population of over 9,000, making it one of the biggest and most populous islands in the northern part of the country. The island is famous for its mangroves (kulhi), after which the island itself is named.
Up until recently, Haa Dhaal remained as the only atoll in the Maldives which did not have a tourist resort. That changed in March when Hondaafushi Island Resort became the first resort to open in the atoll.
However, plans to develop a resort on the island of Naagoashi in the atoll have stalled.
The new airport is expected to facilitate the development of tourist resorts as well as guesthouses in the region.
Over a million tourists from across the globe visit the Indian Ocean island nation every year to holiday in one of the 120 resorts and 400 plus guesthouses located in all corners of the country. The multi-billion dollar tourism industry, which is the country’s main economic activity, relies heavily on the domestic transport infrastructure, especially air travel.
Maldives, the most dispersed country on the planet with 1,192 islands spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres, already has 11 airports, including three international airports. The government has contracted both local and international companies to develop additional domestic airports across the archipelago in a bid to boost tourism.
Photo: Avas Online