The Sri Lankan government has expressed confidence in attracting 1.5 million tourists this year with the re-opening of the airports from Jan. 23 while staying in line with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, according to a report by the local Daily FT on Wednesday.
Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga formally on Tuesday announced that Sri Lanka’s airports will be re-opened for commercial flights and international tourists from Jan. 23, according to the report.
The minister said that with this move, the government hoped to attract 1.5 million tourists this year with implementation of proper COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
Last year tourist arrivals were estimated at 508,000 with most of them prior to the airport closure in mid-March when the country’s borders were closed in order to contain spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Sri Lanka attracted 1.9 million tourists, down from a record 2.3 million in 2018.
With airports re-opened later this month, all incoming tourists will be subject to the coronavirus PCR tests and other requirements including limiting their activities within designated travel bubble areas and in 131 certified hotels.
“Be it group tourists or the free independent travelers, all will be allowed only to move about within the travel corridors subject to negative PCR test results,” he said.
The final guidelines for the tourists and hotels will be issued this week, the minister said.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimarli Fernando said the total 131 hotels certified across the country include five-star hotels, homestay units, guest houses, boutique hotels, boutique villas, bungalows, and camping sites, so that tourists can have a wider range of options.