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  :: home > research and study > tourism history


Tourism and Infrastructure
» Telecommunication
» Transportation
» The door to the world - an airport at Hulhule Island
» AIRLINE OPERATIONS - scheduled flights
» AIRLINE OPERATIONS - charter flights
Telecommunication|Back to top|

The UNDP consultant who visited the Maldives decided that tourism development was impracticable in the Maldives. There might have been some truth considering the factors and the infrastructure at that time. There was no international airport, no telecommunication and no banking services. The mode of transport was very basic and time-consuming. Almost all goods from toothpicks to fruits, need to be imported to the Maldives.

When tourism was introduced to the island nation, the telecommunication facilities were very poor. Messages were sent using Morse code and radio sets. Ham Station and some pilots sent messages to Colombo to make travel arrangements for tourists from Sri Lanka to the Maldives. Supply orders and other communications from local resorts such as Kurumba and Bandos were sent via Radio set to Crescent Tourist Agency. The CTA then delivered the message by a messenger to the recipient. When the first resort in Ari Atoll was developed in 1974, communication became a more difficult task. Walkie Talkies were used to send messages from Kuramathi to Male’. It was hard to receive messages in a clear tone.

A telephone used in 1970s

The British company, Cable and Wireless, established the telecommunication service in the Maldives in 1977. They established an important link from the capital to the remote, isolated islands. Cable and Wireless entered into a joint venture with the Maldivian government and began upgrading and development phases in 1980. During the same year the government of Singapore donated a ‘step-by-step’ automatic exchange of 10,000 telephones which made communication much easier. This new system commenced on 20th September 1980.

The telecommunication sector today keeps pace with new developments in the world and provides all modern facilities such as electronic mail and other e- related services. All tourist resorts, hotels and safari vessels are now equipped with modern communication facilities. The remote islands are no longer isolated from the rest of the world, having instant access from islands to the World Wide Web round the clock.


Transportation|Back to top|

Apart from communication, transport was a major obstacle to the tourism industry in its early years. At a time when the Maldives was hardly known to the world, it was practically inaccessible for tourists who wished to travel to the Maldives. Air transport is the major and prime method to reach the Maldives from Western Europe and other countries. Flights were time-consuming and cumbersome. There were no direct flights from the Maldives to their destination or vice versa. As a result they had to travel through Colombo.

The first air link was established between Sri Lanka and the Maldives in 1966, a year after the Maldives declared independence. The courier was an Air Ceylon Avro aircraft, which had a capacity of 44 passengers. Sri Lankan Air Force also operated charter flights from Colombo to Male’ which had a capacity of 28 passengers. On 1st October 1974 ‘Air Maldives’ was established a national air courier. On September 19 an agreement was signed with the Sri Lankan Air Force to operate charter flights from Colombo to the Maldives.

A new era of air transport began when the airport was upgraded to an international level in 1981. The first flight to land at the new airport was a German charter flight Condor, DC10. Singapore Airlines commenced operations on 26th March 1984 with schedule flights and this established good links to the rest of the world. The national airline of Sri Lanka alsoplayed a major role in bringing tourists from across Eastern and Western Europe to the Maldives. During 1984, 95,264 tourists travelled to the Maldives on schedule flights while 141,818 tourists arrived in 1991. In 1985, the number of tourists who arrived on charter flights were numbered at 33,617 rising to 82,651 in 1991.

A Yacht dhoni - a very popular vessel for sea transport

After 21 years of international air services in the Maldives, many international airlines connect to the Maldives from all over the world. The government has also signed many air service agreements with a number of countries, which has led to an increase in reliable air links. The Maldives today is an easy accessed destination from all over the world with daily charter and schedule flights.
However, landing at the airport does not mean easy access to the final destination. Since all the tourist resorts are isolated from the airport by sea, land transport is not practicable. Easy domestic transport is vital for a holidaymaker who has travelled from far-away destinations. During the early years of tourism a modified fishing vessel named ‘Yacht Dhoni’ was used to transfer tourists from island to island. Today there is another popular modification of the local dhoni called ‘Sathari Dhoni’, which carries passengers and cargo to the resort islands.

Sea plane - a reliable aircraft

The tourism industry has invested a huge sum of money on local transport. The introduction of high speed launches and ferries led to the reduction of travel time and has made sea transport more enjoyable and easy. It has also enabled to expand tourism beyond the central one to faraway atolls without much difficulty. But the milestone in local tourist transfer was the introduction of air service from the airport to the resort islands. On 16th December 1989 Hummingbird Helicopters (a foreign investment) introduced air transfer using helicopters, making the distant resorts much closer to the central zone. Later another company named Seagull Airways began air services along with Hummingbird. During 1994 Maldivian Air Taxi, a foreign company, introduced seaplanes to the Maldives. Seaplanes have proved to be an ideal mode of transport for transfering tourists to remote resort islands.

The door to the world - an airport at Hulhule Island|Back to top|

From the sky above, the bird’s eye view would suggest that the Male’ International Airport is an aircraft carrier floating in the azure blue sea. That is just how it appears but the reality is that it is constructed on one of the low-lying islands of the island nation. The international airport constructed on Hulhule Island is the main entry to and from the rest of the world.

Metal Plate Runway
The metal plate runway constructed by Bristish

There was already a small runway constructed by the British when the Maldivians started constructing the runway in Hulhule. The metal plate runway measured 75 x 3000 feet. The patriotic Maldivians started construction of the runway on Friday, 1st May 1964. The runway ran from one end of the island to the other and was 150 feet wider. The work of public-spirited Maldivians was completed on 1966. An “Avro” (4R-ACJ) of Air Ceylon was the first aircraft to land at this new airport. Maldivians cheered and celebrated when an Air Ceylon plane landed at 15:50 hrs on 12th April 1966 and on the same day the former Prime Minister His Excellency Mr Ibrahim Nasir declared the airport open.

Aircylone on Hulhule runway

Projects to upgrade and to increase the size of the runway continued. The island of Gaadhoo, which was in the lagoon of Hulhule, was made part of Hulhule by reclaiming the lagoon between the two islands. An area measuring 3000’ x 150’ was reclaimed in the lagoon to connect these two islands. To dedicate the hole island solely as an airport, the government decided to shift the people of Hulhule to the capital Male’ and the task was completed on 31st December 1977.

A basic runway, hardly suitable for small planes, was in use when the first tourists arrived in 1972. As the number of arrivals started increasing the government realized the importance of having an international airport to serve the tourist industry. Under the leadership of His Excellency Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom the small airport was reconstructed to an internationally recognised standard. Mr Gayyoom declared the airport open with a new runway and associated facilities on 11th November 1981. The new runway measures 9,315’ x 148’ with a service terminal, which can cater for 350 passengers an hour. Other facilities include a control tower, a refilling service for planes and reliable communication facilities.

The first aircraft to land at Male’ International Airport was a Condor DC 10 wide body aircraft on a direct flight from Europe. This charter flight landed in the Maldives on 31st October 1981.

Male' International airport at Hulhule island
Male' Interbational airport - Re-developed on several occasions

As the inflow of tourists increased immensely, the airport seemed no longer sufficient to cater for arrival and departure passengers. Therefore, the government initiated a new project in 1990 amounting to US$ 34.5 million. On 7th September 1994 a project for a new terminal, which can cater for 1,000 passengers in an hour and costing an estimated US$ 11 million, began. During the laying of the foundation stone Mr Gayyoom addressed the nation and stressed that it was aimed to provide a good standard of service to tourists. These facilities came into service in May1996.


AIRLINE OPERATIONS - scheduled flights |Back to top| 

1.* AEROFLOT 4th August 1994
2. AIR MALDIVES LTD 10th November 1994 - 01st March 2000
3. AIR UKRAINE 27th September 1994 - 06th January 1995
4. AOM MINERVE SA 19th December 1994 - 27th March 1997
5. AUSTRIAN AIRLINES 2nd November 1995 - 01st May 2000
7.* CONDOR 31st October 1981 (Commenced schedule operation from 04th November 1993)
8.* EMIRATES 27th May 1987
9.* EUROFLY SPA 21st December 1998
10. EVA AIR 31st July 1992 (Commenced schedule operations from 26th March 1994 - 01st May 1996)
11.* EXPO AVIATION (Cargo only) 10th August 1997
12.* INDIAN AIRLINES 21st February 1976
13.* LAUDA AIR 16th November 1987 (Operated scheduled flights from 24th December 1996 - 21st April 1998, 21st December 1998 - 05th April 1999 and re-started on 02nd May 2000)
14.* LTU November 1981 (Commenced schedule operations from 01st June 1998)
15.* MALAYSIA AIRLINES 1st June 1996
16.* MARTIN AIR HOLLAND 17th November 1999
17. PAKISTAN INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES 6th May 1987 - 01st October 1999
18. ROYAL NEPAL AIRLINES 10th October 1987 - 01st May 1988
19.* SINGAPORE AIRLINES 28th March 1984
20.* SKY CABS (Cargo only) 1st September 1993
21.* SRILANKAN AIRLINES 10th September 1979
22. TAROM - ROMANIAN AIRLINES 26th October 1992 - 07th February 1995
23. UZBEKISTAN AIRWAYS 27th July 1995 - 13th November 1997
24. ZAS AIRLINE OF EGYPT 30th June 1992 - 13th January 1995

*currently operating
Source: Department of Civil Aviation

Singapore Airlines - operates regular schedule flights


AIRLINE OPERATIONS - charter flights |Back to top|

1. AIR 2000 LTD 20th December 1992 - 25th October 1993 and 08th November 1999 - 30th April 2000
2. AIR CHARTER 15th December 1997 - 29th April 1999
3. AIR EUROPA 05th May 1997 - 08th December 1997
4.* AIR EUROPE SPA 24th October 1998
5. AIR HOLLAND 08th October 1996 - 03rd November 1999
6. AIR LUXOR 29th July 1999 - 31st October 1999
7. AIR TOURS INTERNATIONAL 04th November 1996 - 28th April 1997, 03rd November 1997 - 27th April 1998, 02nd November 1998 - 26th April 1999 and 08th November 1999 - 01st May 2000
8. AIR UKRAINE 24th September 1994 - 06th January 1995
9. ALITALIA 07th December 1981 - 01st May 1995
10.* BALAIR CTA 1st December 1981
11. BRITANNIA AIRWAYS 06th November 1995 - 27th April 1998
12. BRITANNIA AIRWAYS – SWEDEN 25th October 1998 - 16th April 1999
13. CALEDONIAN AIRWAYS 09th November 1993 - 26th April 1999
14.* CITY BIRD 28th April 2000
15. CORSE AIR INTERNATIONAL (CORSAIR)16th December 1999 - 27th April 2000
16. FINNAIR 20th January 1992 - 19th April 1995
17.* LAUDA AIR ITALY 20th December 1997
18.* MONARCH AIRLINES 23rd December 1985
19. NORDIC EUROPEAN AIR 06th November 1996 - 17th February 1998

*currently operating
Source: Department of Civil Aviation



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