ECONOMYNEXT – An Indian firm is in the process of being given to manage Sri Lanka’s three airports including the main Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) where the island nation has now seen an over saturation in foreign tourists, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said.
The island nation is expecting 2.2 million tourists for 2024, but the main airport needs capacity improvement to handle the
“An Indian firm is going to manage three airports. If it happens, the airports could reach a good level,” Harin Fernando told Economy Next on Wednesday (31).
However, he did not name the Indian firm.
The three airports are Colombo (Bandaranaike International Airport), Rathmalana, and Mattala, he said.
Media reports last month suggested that Russia has expressed its keenness to get into a joint venture with India involving private entities to run the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in southern Sri Lanka.
Analysts have said the move to manage Chinese built Mattala Airport, which is considered as the “World’s Emptiest Airport” would be to check in China in Sri Lanka’s deep Southern city of Hambantota where Beijing owns a massive port and is awarded to build a $4.5 billion oil refinery.
The latest move also comes when the island nation’s expansion plan at the main airport has been delayed after the country declared bankruptcy in April 2022.
As a move, tourists face some difficulties at immigration, government officials have said.
“That’s a mess, honestly. That’s one of the biggest worries,” Fernando said.
“Immigration cannot handle the Airport load in Sri Lanka. That’s why I told the president to let the Charter flight operations to be landed in Mattala and Indian (Charter) flights to be landed in Ratmalana airport.”
“Most of them (Indians) travel to Wellawatta and Colombo. So, it is easier for them. The only issue is there is a ban that the flights can’t go above the parliament. But still you can divert two knots and come through the sea. Again, there is an issue with landing bigger aircraft.” (Colombo/Jan 31/2024)