Thursday, 21 January 2021 08:01

Fresh hopes for tourism industry

The beleaguered COVID-hit tourism industry will start today with fresh hope for revival as Sri Lanka reopens its borders after a 10-month closure though actual leisure travellers to exotic destination may take bit longer.

Regular carrier Oman Air will be the first to touch down in early hours after Sri Lanka officially resumes commercial flights today but the carrier will not have tourists but expatriates wanting to rush back home to be secure amidst COVID pandemic. Apart from a few day-time national carrier SriLankan Airlines flights from Maldives, Karachi, Lahore and Bahrain, only Emirates is scheduled to touch down later tonight but 21 January will not usher pure tourists, but the industry is heartened by the reopening with strict COVID safety and health guidelines.

Daily FT learns a Qatar Airways flight tomorrow early hours will bring a couple of travel agents and journalists from Germany keen in Ayurveda tourism and they are likely to be the first set of tourists to land on Sri Lanka post-COVID lockdown.

The Emirates flight is part of its thrice-a-week post-COVID schedule and depending on the progress, is likely to increase the frequency. Pre-COVID Emirates used to operate four flights per day. Oman had been operating flights on demand and it too will revert to normal schedule in tandem with demand.

Singapore Airlines which resumed select flights too will up its frequency on demand.

Irrespective of the much-anticipated reopening and arrival of tourists, the Sri Lanka Tourism will today announce its aspirations via a media conference with subject Minister Prasanna Ranatunga in attendance along with the industry.

As of yesterday, around 100 tourist visas had been issued, according to the Immigration officials.

(FT)

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