Over 2mn tourist arrivals expected this year following reduction in airport charges

From left: Sri Lanka Association of Airline Representatives Chairman Gerard Victoria, Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry Secretary S. Hettiarachchi, SLTDA Chairman Johanne Jayaratne, Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga, Board of Airline Representatives  Chairman Dimuthu Tennakoon and Emirates Sri Lanka and Maldives Area Manager Chandana de Silva.

  • Operational costs of airlines to come down by 20%-25%
  • Many airlines resume usual frequencies to Colombo 
  • SLTDA projects 2.1mn tourist this year based on current trends
  • SriLankan Airlines urged to resume flights to Frankfurt, Paris

Sri Lanka’s State-run tourism authority expressed confidence on a faster recovery of the sector with over two million arrivals this year, backed by recent reduction of charges at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and other supportive measures.
Following the Cabinet approval to revise ground handling charges, aviation fuel prices and embarkation levy, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Johanne Jayaratne expects airlines to see an approximate 20-25 percent reduction in their operational costs, which would enable them to bring in more passengers.
Addressing a media briefing in Colombo yesterday, he expressed confidence on reaching at least 2 million tourist arrivals this year.
The SLTDA projects 2.1 million tourist arrivals for the year based on current trends.
He noted that daily tourist arrivals reached 3, 700 on Sunday, which is well above the 2, 000 daily average arrivals in June.
The Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) Chairman Dimuthu Tennakoon ensured that BAR will be fully supportive by increasing their capacities to the BIA. “The cancelled frequencies will be reinstated, and we will make sure that all airlines will work with their respective head offices closely to increase this number. Further, every airline will work closely with tour operators in respective source markets to increase traffic into Sri Lanka offering very attractive airfares,” he said.
According to SLTDA, following April 21 attacks, the connectivity was reduced to 239 flights per week resulting in the cancellation 41 in total, which amounts to a loss of seat supply of 8,000 per week from six countries – China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Oman, and Thailand.
Meanwhile, the BAR member and Emirates Sri Lanka and Maldives Area Manager Chandana de Silva noted that Emirates observed a slight pickup in bookings for months of October, November and December to Colombo with no booking cancellations being recorded since this month.
“I am very confident that this trend will continue.  Emirates has already resumed all of its eight flights to Colombo,” he added.
However, several Far Eastern and Indian carriers are yet to resume their flights to Colombo.
Tourist arrivals from China declined by over 80 percent YoY in the aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks.  China Eastern Airlines Director/ General Manager in Sri Lanka, Eustace Silva revealed that the airline will resume its flights from China to Colombo from September onwards while noting that the airline is preparing to commence marketing activities offering special rates for Chinese passengers travelling to Colombo. He added that China Eastern Airlines may even increase its frequencies to Colombo.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Association of Airline Representatives (SLAAR) Chairman Gerard Victoria said a couple of far eastern and Indian carriers that were planning to commence flights to Colombo have temporarily abandoned their plans following the Easter Sunday attacks.
However, he stressed that the airport charge reduction would be an attractive incentive for these airlines to re-consider and go ahead with their original plans.  Indian based Vistara Airlines, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, was planning to operate its flights to Colombo from this September.
Further, Jetstar Airways, an Australia-based low-cost airline was also reportedly planning to commence their flights to Colombo from this year onwards. Victoria noted that SLAAR membership would be encouraged to re-engage with these airlines and mega carriers such as British Airways to come to Sri Lanka.  Meanwhile, Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said he fully backs the tourism industry’s request for SriLankan Airlines to resume their flights to Frankfurt and Paris, reasoning that such a move would attract high-spending European tourists to Sri Lanka.
The minister also revealed that the government is attempting to resume a ferry service between Talaimannar and Ramakrishna. However, he remarked that the proposal was not viewed very positively by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.
Yet, he was optimistic that the two parties will be able to come into an agreement during Agriculture, Livestock Development, Irrigation, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister P. Harrison’s visit to India.
Amaratunga also said his ministry is working on several other supportive measures such as reducing ticket prices at heritage sites and offering round tickets. In addition, facilities at several wildlife parks such as Yala and Kumana are also being upgraded.
Despite tourist arrivals recovering in June over May, the cumulative arrivals for the first half of the year fell 13.4 percent YoY to 1.16 million.
Following the Easter Sunday attacks, the government was initially expecting a 30 percent drop in arrivals to around 1.6 million tourists this year.

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