The Maldivian Government will grant permission for the construction of new guest houses across the islands and improved public transport in a bid to attract the middle market.

Speaking in London yesterday, President Mohamed Nasheed, who was elected to the post late last year, said the new programme is being introduced to attract a wider range of tourists to the islands.

In order to do this, the government is introducing a programme to secure cheaper accommodation and better transport between the islands. There will also be a focus on cultural and eco-tourism.

He added: “The average British person should be able to come and enjoy the Maldives and see the sun, the sea and the sand.

“Thirty-something couples could come and have a good time and you could get travellers in the Maldives and backpackers.”

Nasheed said the scheme would hopefully attract a further 100,000 Brits to visit the islands each year on top of the 200,000 currently holidaying at the destination.

Guest houses on both occupied and unoccupied islands will be approved for companies prepared to help build up the local infrastructure through providing utilities like electricity or water as well as helping set up their own public transport links.

Guest house operators would pay cheaper rents to the government than multi-national hotel chains and it is hoped this will keep the prices down.

Many of the new guest houses will fulfil part of a pledge by the government to have 12,000 additional beds built in the Maldives by 2011.

Nasheed added the destination is hoping to build cultural centres in the islands where visitors will be able learn more about traditional Maldivian culture including music and dance.