ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is attempting to lure transit passengers at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to make short visits into the country to boost tourism earnings, which are falling after the Easter Sunday terror attack, a SriLankan Airlines official said.
"We are going to have a strategy to attract transit passengers which we are going to discuss with the tourism ministry and other organizations’ members," Holidays Manager Buddhika Hewawasam said.
"We actually have about 400,000 transit passengers who stay between 8 to 24 hours at the Colombo airport, so these passengers are a good source of short-term tourism," he said.
In total, Sri Lanka has 1.5 million transit passengers, according to Finance Ministry data.
"We are planning to take them out with a combined tour package with all the partners," Hewawasam said.
Two-day transit visas are free, but require prior application, according to the Immigration and Emigration Department.
In 2018 there were 186,862 excursionists (short-term visitors who spend less than 24 hours in a country) in Sri Lanka according to official data.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said that almost all excursionists were cruise ship passengers who come on shore for sightseeing and shopping while the ship is in harbor.
Colombo city tours and visits to the central highlands city of Kandy, and the elephant orphanage in Pinnawela are popular among cruise ship passengers visiting the Colombo Port, according to travel agents.
Cruises calling on Galle and Hambantota allows excursionists to visit the Galle Fort and Yala National Park along the south coast, while some cruises also call on the Eastern port of Trincomalee.
Galle is within reach of airport transit passengers through the highway network.
Sri Lankan Airlines said that it is positive that the ‘transit passenger strategy’ will generate short-term tourism earnings for the country.
“At the airline level, we are very keen on this project and we will be able to get momentum out of these 400,000 transit passengers,” Hewawasam said.(Colombo/Jun24/2019)