ECONOMYNEXT -The first charter flight from Ukraine carrying tourists is due to arrive in Sri Lanka on December 28 an official said, resuming tourism in the Indian Ocean Island in the Coronavirus era which ended in March 2020 with airport closures.
Ukraine’s SkyUp airlines will carry the first complement of passengers on December 28 to Sri Lanka’s Mattala Airport, Shehan Sumanasekara, Director Operations, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) told EconomyNext.
The SkyUp Boeing 737-900 is scheduled to land at 1440 hours. A second Ukraine International airlines Boeing 737-900 is expected to land on December 29 at 1215 hours.
An Aeroflot flight which was scheduled to land on December 27 had already been cancelled.
Sri Lanka said it was opening airports to commercial flights and charters from December 26, though aircraft carrying cargo, returnees and approved officials and specialists are operating to the island.
The Russian tourists will be assisted by Sri Lanka Tourism authorities until their departure, Sumanasekara said.
A tourist sector official said the Russian tourists are part of a pilot project run by authorities to study the feasibility of opening the country to tourism.
The government was planning to bring in about 50,000 tourists before a Coronavirus surge started in September, the official said.
The travellers will come with a pre-departure negative PCR test taken 72-hour before and they will also take a test after arriving in the country at their hotel.
The tourists will stay at designated hotels and be monitored through an online application.
There is a pent up demand for tourism, with savings rates also going up in many countries due to lack of spending opportunities, economic analysts have said.
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is one of the hardest hit from Coronavirus.
Sri Lanka Attracted 1.9 million travellers in 2019 even though the country experienced multiple Easter Sunday attacks that year where major hotels and churches were bombed in the country.
However, In 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka closed its boarders by mid-March after the first local patient, a tour guide was infected. So far Sri Lanka has got about 500,000 travellers till March.
Russia is one of the top ten source markets for Sri Lanka’s tourism with 86,832 Russian tourists have visited the island in 2019.
Particularly in December 2019, Russian Federation travellers were the third-highest visitors to the country.
(Colombo/Dec 25/2020- update I)