Maldives to launch more direct air links with China

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MALE: The Maldivian government is aiming to strengthen tourism ties with China by establishing direct air links between the two countries by the year-end, Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer said on Tuesday.

Zameer said in an interview with Xinhua that China was one of the leading countries for Maldives' tourism but Chinese arrivals had seen a decline in recent months due to a state of emergency declared by President Abdulla Yameen in February.

However, the Maldives is now carrying out mega marketing campaigns in many countries including China and is in talks with leading airlines to start direct flights between the two countries.

"Right now the European destinations are connected to the Maldives with the A380, which is the world's largest commercial airbus. We are in talks to link Chinese cities to the Maldives through the A380 so passengers can enjoy direct facilities," Zameer told Xinhua.

Presently there are around 13 flights between China and Maldives weekly, but these destinations are connected through a transit airport.

"If there are no direct flights, it is not convenient for tourists. We have been trying hard to start operations with wide-body aircraft and we hope to start operations by the end of this year," the minister said.

An expansion project of the Maldives Velana International Airport is also expected to boost the tourism sector due to its new runways and enhanced facilities.

Zameer said part of the airport expansion will be completed by the end of 2018, while the terminal expansion will be finished by the end of 2019.

 
This will enable more tourists to land in the island country directly, expanding the country's tourist arrivals.

Zameer said projects such as the China-Maldives Friendship bridge would also spread awareness among the Chinese travelers about Maldives and this would help attract more tourists.

"Like the friendship bridge projects there is always potential for more awareness. Some Chinese are also in partnership with the private sector on tourism projects. This will enhance our opportunities in expanding the tourism sector for the Chinese," he said.

"Maldives as of now is still the most sought after destination for the Chinese traveler. We are building more facilities for the Chinese travelers," he added.

Over 104,000 Chinese tourists have arrived in the Maldives from January to May this year with the Indian Ocean island nation aiming for 1 million Chinese tourists per year in the coming five years.

The Tourism Ministry of Maldives and the Culture and Tourism Ministry of China, along with the Chinese Embassy in Maldives, for the first time held the China-Maldives Tourism Cooperation forum in Male on Tuesday to discuss ways to expand tourism.

The forum was attended by government officials and leading travel operators from both Maldives and China.

During the forum, a Memorandum of Understanding between China Association of Travel Service and Maldives Association of Tourism Industry was signed.Xinhua