UL chief signals early recovery in tourism

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  • Said the country can earn over $ 500 million in the coming winter season
  • Successful vaccination campaign and ease of local and global restrictions key factors for optimism
  • National carrier sees first signs of pent-up demand
  • Increase capacity to London with SL off travel red list
  • To add a second frequency in Moscow from November
  • Charter flights twice a week to Kazakhstan for the winter season
  • Good demand after resumption of flights to India
  • Confident that Parisian flights three times a week bring a significant load
  • Airline activity rebounds to 50% of pre-COVID level
  • In a historic gesture, Air France, Swiss and Aeroflot resume their flights to Colombo from November

By Nisthar Cassim


Ashok Pathirage, President of SriLankan Airlines


SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage yesterday revealed the first signs of a recovery in tourism, forecasting revenues of more than $ 500 million for the coming winter season alone, for which demand is increasing as the carrier national is increasing its services.

“The coming season looks very promising and we are preparing for a busy schedule,” Pathirage told the Daily FT.

He said that following the rapid vaccination against COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and the easing of restrictions on major tourism markets, the prospects for a rapid recovery in the travel and tourism industry are ‘were improved.

With Sri Lanka no longer on UK travel red list and surveys showing increased interest in travel to Sri Lanka, the national carrier will step up services to London, its mainstay, the UK being the third largest source of tourism in Sri Lanka. with more than 250,000 arrivals in 2018.

Pathirage said resuming services to Moscow after a five-year absence had proven beneficial and that due to growing demand SriLankan would deploy the second flight from November.

In addition, with Kazakhstan becoming an emerging market, SriLankan will introduce two charter flights per week from November in partnership with a major tour operator. Kazakhstan became Sri Lanka’s largest source market in the first eight months of this year, with a share of 13% with more than 3,000 arrivals, up 37% from the corresponding period of the year. last.

Foreshadowing a return to France after a five-year absence, SriLankan has already announced the launch of three-weekly flights to Paris also from November and Pathirage said initial bookings looked very encouraging.

Air France also announced the launch of flights to Sri Lanka from November, a breakthrough after 35 years. France was Sri Lanka’s fifth largest tourism source market with more than 100,000 arrivals before the COVID pandemic.

Pathirage said these encouraging developments along with the launch of two weekly flights from Zurich by Swiss starting November 4 as well as Aeroflot indicate a very busy season for the tourism industry.

“I have no doubts that the winter season will generate over $ 500 million in foreign exchange earnings from tourism, triggering a rapid recovery. Next calendar year, we can envisage 2 to 3 billion dollars in income from tourism, ”added the Sri Lankan president.

In 2018, without incident, Sri Lanka earned a record $ 4.4 billion from tourism with 2.3 million arrivals. However, the industry has been struggling since the April 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist attacks followed by the COVID pandemic. In 2019, tourist arrivals fell to 1.9 million and revenues to $ 3.6 billion while last year arrivals plunged to 508,000 and revenues to $ 682 million.

Pathirage is also seeing pent-up demand from India, where it resumed flights to six destinations last month. “At present we are bringing 400 to 500 passengers daily from India and with the full reopening of Sri Lanka for tourism from November there will be a big increase,” he said, adding that SriLankan would increase the capacity of the neighboring giant in tandem with demand.

The national carrier also sees an improvement in traffic from Japan and the Middle East from October.

“Even as we speak, SriLankan Airlines is back to 50% of pre-COVID revenue and we are excited about the high potential for a business recovery starting next month,” Pathirage added.

Despite the reopening of borders on January 21, tourism has struggled, in part due to multiple waves of COVID in Sri Lanka as well as restrictions on tourism-generating markets.

In the first eight months of 2021, there were only 24,377 tourists, with arrivals in August reaching 5,040, the highest since the borders reopened. Tourism revenues are estimated at $ 3 million in July and $ 26 million in the first seven months.


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