The Maldives is seeking more direct flights from China to attract up to one million tourists annually – triple the current number – by 2023, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid sought to boost air connectivity between the two countries during his visit to Beijing over the weekend.

“During my meeting with the Chinese foreign minister, we discussed the possibility of adding more direct flights from China to the Maldives,” officials quoted Shahid as saying.

There are now 26 direct flights a week between the Maldives and China.

Nearly 300,000 Chinese tourists are this year expected to visit the Maldives, known for pristine beaches and secluded coral islands scattered over about 800 kilometers, or 500 miles, in the Indian ocean.

In the first seven months of this year, 172,800 – or 17.4% – of tourists came from China. Foreign ministry officials said they expected a record 1.6 million tourists to visit the archipelago this year, up from 1.4 million last year.

AFP