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SL to follow Maldives with ‘open skies’ policy

26 May 2015 03:40 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Chandeepa Wettasinghe

Sri Lanka will be adopting the ‘open skies’ policy practised by the Maldives to develop tourism in the future, according to a Cabinet minister.
“We will be opening the Sri Lankan skies so that we have an open skies policy. This will help ensure that the people who need to come can. This is the way forward,” Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said.
He said that the policy will help promote business in the Indian Ocean as well.
Open skies refers to the liberalization of the airline industry, with the government not interfering in operations such as routes, capacity and pricing to increase the exchange of passengers and trade.
The Maldives—one of the most expensive and highly demanded destinations in the world—has been using this policy to drive its tourism industry, particularly by allowing non-national carriers to be responsible for tourism arrivals, while using sea planes for internal transport.
“We’re looking for investors to come into the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and the Maldives as a collective region. We need to open regulations and policies for investment, starting with open air policies,” Maldivian Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor said.He further added that regional development is linked to developing regional airports.
“The Maldives spearheaded tourism development in the region in the past. I’m sure we can do a splendid job going ahead,” Karunanayake added. He said that Sri Lanka’s opportunities in tourism should be fully exploited, adding that the 2.5 million tourist arrival target for 2016 still stands for the new regime, while revenues are targeted to be US $ 2.75 billion. In 2014, the tourist arrivals were 1.5 million, while the revenue was Rs.2.06 billion. Karunanayake said that the government is seeking US $ 3 billion in foreign direct investments in the next five years.
He expressed that visitor numbers have improved since the ascension of President Maithripala Sirisena.
“Some travellers were concerned to come here with the travel advisories. But with the new government, they are coming,” Karunanayake added. While the tourist arrivals for the first four months in 2015 were 601,055 compared to 534,132 in 2014, the growth had moderated to 12.5 percent from 28.53 percent in the same period. The comments were made during the Hospitality Investment Conference Indian Ocean. Experts questioned whether the region has already got enough tourist arrivals, and should focus on quality instead of quantity by seeking tourists who would value the vibrant local cultures. They stressed on the effects currency, political events, open skies, economics and public-private partnerships would have on the tourism sector.
 
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