Saudi real estate investment and development firm Best Choice has announced plans to develop a US$100 million resort on Vadinolhu island in Laamu Atoll.
“We are negotiating with investors, and we are looking for more,” Best Choice CEO Mohamad Rabih Itani told Minivan News today.
“Our aim is to develop Vadinolhu Island as a high-end resort with world-class facilities to promote it as a complete family destination,” Itani explained in a company press release.
With headquarters in Bahrain, Best Choice – formed just last month – also has offices in Turkey and the Maldives. The company’s owners, however, have been active in the Maldives for a number of years, Mitani told Minivan.
“The company was established last month, but we already had a company in the Maldives called Miulu developments since 2011.”
Established by Saudi investors, the group currently specialises in properties in Italy and Spain, as well as selling mixed-use projects in Turkey and residential developments in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz is scheduled to visit the Maldives this week, and ties between the Arab state that the Indian Ocean archipelago have been growing under the presidency of Abdulla Yameen.
Headlines in Saudi Arabia have suggested that Prince Salman will discuss potential investments and partnerships in energy, tourism, transport, and Islamic affairs, as well the provision of a soft loan facility of US$300 million for the Indian Ocean nation.
President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz today said that prince’s visit is still due to take place, and that Prince Salman will meet with President Yameen during his stay.
When asked about Best Choice’s links with the Saudi royal family and the increasing relations between the two states, Mitani stated that the timing of the resort announcement was “pure coincidence”.
The proposed resort, reported to feature 100 beach villas, world-class dining services, wellness facilities, and leisure activities, a Best Choice press release has stated. The resort is expected to be completed by 2017.
“We have already designed a business proposal targeting potential investors to collaborate with us in the operation and management of the resort. We are confident of achieving an operating profit in the second year with the cash payback period at six years,” Mitani explained.
Best Choice’s press release describes the Maldives as “one of the most recent investment destinations in South Asia”.
“Due to its investment-friendly policies, the South East Asian Island offers attractive opportunities to keen investors – especially those into resort management,” read the release.
The Yameen administration has sought burnish the country’s credentials as an attractive place to invest after the premature termination of Indian company GMR’s deal to develop the international airport in late 2012.
Although Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives – part of the governing coalition at the time of GMR’s expulsion – includes many vocal opponents of the GMR deal, the party has since distanced itself from the decision.
Reassuring foreign investors of the safety of the Maldives as a destination for investment was recently announced of one of the main aims of the administration’s foreign policy.
The Maldives brand of luxury tourism currently accounts for 70-80 percent of the country’s GDP, with the IMF noting recently that investors in the Maldivian resorts can expect a quicker return on investment than in similar resort industries. The industry attracted over 1.2 million tourists in 2013.
The IMF delegation also noted that, despite plans to increase tourist goods and services tax to 12 percent later this year, the Maldives tourism industry was still only lightly taxed in comparison to other destinations.