Beautiful clouds Maldives WTMHis Excellency Ahmad Shiaan, ambassador of the Maldives to the UK, told Travel Bulletin at World Travel Market (WTM) that it is an "interesting time" for tourism in the Indian Ocean destination as major developments are set to open in the coming months and into 2019.

Already open is the Sinamale Bridge, which connects the capital, Male with the airport island of Hulhule, as well as Velana International Airport, which has capacity for landing Airbus A380 planes following the development of a new runway. Scheduled flights have already commenced at Maafaru Airport in Noonu Atoll, and construction is underway for a transit hotel. This airport provides access to many popular high-end resorts, such as Soneva Fushi, Velaa Private Island and Cheval Blanc Randheli.

However, one of the most ambitious developments for the Maldives is still under construction and, according to Ambassador Shiaan, is scheduled to open "mid to late 2019". This is the Crossroads project, which will span across nine islands and a 7km lagoon as a multi-leisure, entertainment, retail and resort accommodation facility.

One of the aims of the Crossroads development is to continue to grow the family and solo traveller sectors in the Maldives, which has been traditionally seen as a honeymoon/couples destination. As well as the resorts, restaurants and entertainment, the development will house a Maldives Discovery Centre where visitors can experience local culture and a Marine Discovery Centre to spearhead the destination's coral propagation activities and help with the pish towards more sustainable tourism.

To attract younger visitors, Youth City is being built on Hulhumale, 8km from the capital. This is an artificial island which will feature green transport and architecture, residential accommodation, a cruise terminal and recreational areas, such as a yacht marina, Olympic-suzed swimming pool, water theme park, sports arena, football and cricket stadium, and a music and arts institute.

Adventure tourism is another area the Maldives is keen to promote with surfing, diving, big game fishing and swimming with whale sharks on offer as drawcards for tourists.

When asked for his advice to travel agents seeking to sell holidays to the Maldives, Ambassador Shiaan said that established agents tend to know the market well already but for newcomers, he advised them to "identify a niche area" as a way of standing out in what he described as a "crowded [market] to be honest". 

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