Over the years, Velana International Airport has been facing several issues with little to no signs of real improvement. One of the major issues that was previously faced was the water leaking from the roofs due to rain. However, a temporary solution for this has always been instigated instead of a permanent one. This is because a permanent solution requires the airport to have a brand new terminal with the latest facilities and resources.
Fast forward to today, and the biggest issue now faced by the airport is poor management. Many tourists from South Asian countries and Europe have been visiting the Maldives, as certain countries require a 14-day quarantine in a safe list country. Due to this, thousands of tourists from countries such as India and Pakistan are visiting the Maldives, occupying guesthouses and resorts. All these tourists come through Velana International Airport, causing high congestion at the airport.
Congestion leads to several other issues such as visitors having to spend long hours at the airport. Many tourists are often seen eating, sleeping, and waiting in large groups sitting on the ground, and using the toilets to take showers. This contributes to poor hygiene and cleanliness in the airport as there is no proper handling of this matter.
Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) responded to this issue by saying that the main cause of congestion is because of the airport representatives’ failure to receive tourists on time. However, this argument falls short, as being late to receive tourists is not a new occurrence. Instead, the issue of congestion at Velana can be appropriately attributed to the failure of Maldives Airports Company Limited in implementing proper procedures to handle and manage this at the airport.
As per a travel agent in the Maldives, MACL’s management has failed to execute the policies even though they have been made. In addition to this, the project of the new terminal at the airport commenced by the previous government has seen several delays and is still showing slow progress. The new seaplane terminal contract has now been handed over to Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) for completion. However, MACL has still not finalized on how to manage the new seaplane terminal upon completion. The new runway built can only be used upon the completion of the new seaplane terminal, as it requires space from the existing seaplane terminal area.
Further, airport employees have expressed their dissatisfaction with the existing MACL management due to prejudice. According to these employees, foreigners are being given senior positions with higher salaries while locals are being discriminated against.
The problems being faced by the airport cannot be entirely solved with the opening of the new terminal. It requires acknowledging the root cause of the existing problems and overall better management. As the Maldives is marketed as a luxury destination, it is the responsibility of all involved stakeholders to maintain this reputation. Velana International Airport is the face of the Maldives and a vital contributor in creating a good first impression among arriving tourists. However, with so many problems going out of hand, MACL management needs to amend the situation as soon as possible.