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INDIAN OCEAN MALDIVES DESTINATIONS Blueswoon


With a host of hotel openings and a new flight via Muscat, the Maldives is looking better than ever, finds Rachel Roberts


T


he Maldives has long been renowned as a year-round


destination for wealthy sun- worshippers, but recently-resumed flights via Muscat have opened it up to those who want to add some culture to a coastal escape. The Indian Ocean destination


is already booming, according to the ministry of tourism. UK arrivals in 2018 hit 114,602, a 10% jump compared with 2017, and well above the 6.8% increase in global arrivals for the same period to 1.48 million. The resumption of Oman Air’s flights from the new terminal at Muscat airport to Maldivian capital Malé, after a two-year hiatus, couldn’t have come at a better time. The airline halted the service


in 2016 as part of a cost-cutting exercise but, after reintroducing the route last October, saw such significant demand that it has already extended its winter programme until April 30, restarting for 2019-20 on October 28. Oman Air chief commercial officer


Paul Starrs says: “Our primary goal is to promote Oman and if partnering with the Maldives helps, even better. The redesigned schedule will give passengers from Istanbul, Moscow, Manchester and Heathrow super- quick connections between Muscat airport and Malé.” The move also reflects the growing popularity of Omani capital Muscat as a city destination and stopover spot (box, page 66). Muscat airport’s stylish, ultra-modern terminal has already garnered a cache of


Olhuveli Beach & Spa 21 March 2019travelweekly.co.uk65


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