ECOMOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is getting about 1,000 passengers a day including tourists and returning residents after airports formally opened in January with the bulk of tourist traffic coming to Mattala airport, an official said.
A planned ‘air-bubble’ with India and vaccination progress around the world will help boost the aviation sector,
“On average with repatriation and tourists we get about 1000 passengers per day coming to the country,” Shehan Sumanasekara, Chief Director-Operations (All airports), Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) told EconomyNext.
“From January 21st, we have got most of the airlines which were previously running to Sri Lanka on schedule basis.”
Sri Lanka used to get over 5 million foreign and SriLanka arrivals a month (over 13,500 a day), mainly from Katunayake before Coronavirus lockdowns stopped tourism, expatriate and business traffic.
SriLankan, Qatar, Etihad, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, China Eastern, Oman Airlines, Singapore and Kuwait Airways and Salam Airways have started.
This month AirAstana from Kazakshtan started regular charters. On Thursday Sri Lanka saw the first flight by Sunday Airlines, the charter arm of Kazakh carrier SCAT Airlines.
Sumanasekara said since opening Bandaranayake Airport (BIA) received about 478 tourists’ arrivals and the Mattala Rajapaksa Airport (MRIA) has welcomed about 3,000 tourists since airports re-opened in January 21.
Sri Lanka welcomed about 1,635 tourists in January 2021 after airports were re-opened and post-Coronavirus tourism resumed under a ‘bio-bubble’ concept of limiting contact with the resident population.
The top five tourist source markets during January 2021 were Ukraine, Belarus, China, Russian Federation and Germany. Travelers from the Netherlands, Canada, India, the United States and Maldives have also visited the country.
Sri Lanka’s tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga in a statement to parliament claimed that the island had got more tourists in the first month than Maldives, despite having tighter restrictions.
Maldives welcomed 91,000 tourists in January 2021, with most coming from Russia and India.
Maldives received 20,973 tourists from Russia, 19,135 from India, 7,210 from Ukraine and 4,434 from Kazakshtan.
India’s was Sri Lanka’s top source of tourists before airports closed in March 2020.
Air-bubble with India
“India has been a key tourism market for Sri Lanka. But if we could finalize the air-bubble concept with India, we would see the numbers growing.”
Sri Lanka is in talks with India to resume air travel and tourism following a proposal by India on setting up an ‘air-bubble’ between the two countries.
Vinod K Jacob Indian Deputy High-Commissioner said in a business forum in Colombo that the Sri Lanka had responded positively to the proposal.
Sri Lanka’s airport and tourism authorities have said at first they had testing and health facilities to cater to about 3,300 passengers a day involving 2,500 tourists and 750 paid quarantine passengers a day.
“Still largely, global tourism is at a very immature stage, people are not travelling,” Sumanasekara said.
With vaccination just begining global airports were still running at about 10 percent pre-Covid-19 capacity, he said.
But the global vaccination campaign is expected to make strong progress in about six months.
“Until that happens we will not see the numbers going up drastically but surely, numbers will pick up steadily.”
Singapore airlines said Wednesday that they had begun flights with fully vaccinated crew. (Colombo/Feb12/2021)