By Sandun A. Jayasekera
Chairperson of Tourism Promotion Bureau, Kirmali Fernando said gradual opening of the country to tourism has been started with the resumption of flights by SriLankan Airlines to UK, Australia and Japan.
However, the full opening of Sri Lanka to the world tourists would be a decision that has to be taken by the President and the heads of Police and Armed Forces.
“Yes it is a positive development that SriLankan Airlines commercial flights to several capitals. These flights will serve the foreigners who are stranded in Sri Lanka to fly home and Sri Lankans who are waiting abroad to come home,” Ms. Fernando added. She also said about 11,000 foreign nationals – majority of them are tourists – were in Sri Lanka and many of them were not keen to go back probably because they believe Sri Lanka is safer than their home countries.
“Taking into consideration the re-opening of economic activities in the world, followed by easing of travel restrictions among countries, SriLankan Airlines is now offering services to passengers who are eligible to travel under the respective countries’ travel advisories to London, Tokyo, Melbourne and Hong Kong and beyond,” the airline said. Accordingly, passengers who wish to travel to these destinations or beyond can also now purchase their tickets through Sri Lankan offices or through the nearest travel agent.
Currently, most governments are allowing travellers who are stranded overseas to return to their countries subject to a stipulated validity of the respective travel documentation and periods of quarantine. Commencing from May 13, SriLankan Airlines is offering passengers to travel to London and beyond under this special travel scheme.
The airline will also operate special cargo flights to 17 destinations, which are being operated by the national carrier to support the country’s export industry during this time of crisis. These will include three weekly flights to Male; two flights a week to Chennai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Doha, Dubai, Melbourne, Beijing, Guangzhou (Canton) and Shanghai and one weekly flight each to Mumbai, Karachi, Lahore, Dhaka, Frankfurt, and Tokyo.
The flights to London, Tokyo, Melbourne and Hong Kong will carry passengers and cargo.