RIYADH: Maldives Ambassador Abdullah Hameed has expressed optimism regarding plans by Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) to double its flights to the South Asian country from two to four weekly.
The envoy told Arab News the two additional flights would originate from Jeddah. Saudia, the Kingdom’s flagship carrier, started its bi-weekly flights to the Maldives from Riyadh at the end of March last year.
Hameed said the two additional flights would increase the number of Saudi tourists to the Maldives, a tropical island nation located just north of the equator in the Indian Ocean.
The country comprises 26 atolls that are made up of more than 1,000 coral islands, and is known for its white-sand beaches, blue lagoons and extensive reefs. About 200 of the islands are inhabited.
Hameed said it is encouraging to see the considerable increase in Saudi tourists. In 2015, 15,749 Saudis visited the Maldives, with a 39.5 percent increase last year to 21,944, he added.
Hameed, a veteran diplomat with more than 20 years experience in the Maldives Foreign Service, said 1.3 million tourists visited his country last year. The Maldives has a population of 393,988.
Besides Saudia, other airlines with flights to the country include Maldives Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Air India and Sri Lankan Airlines, among others.