Sri Lanka is expecting the first tourists from Germany and Dubai after Colombo and Mattala airports re-opened for tourists from January 21, with a daily ceiling of 2,500 tourists raising the possibility of getting a million visitors in 2021, officials said.
The Department of Immigration had issue 75 visas on the first few hours of January 21 for tourists, from America, Germany, the Middle East and China, Sri Lanka Tourism chief Kimarli Fernando said.
“The first guests are coming on SriLankan and Qatar from Germany,” Fernando said. “We are bringing via Emirates from Dubai. Not big numbers but we have to make a start.”
Based on the daily ceiling of 2,500 passengers, about a million tourists was a possibility for 2021 Fernando said, as numbers pick up, though no specific target had been set.
SriLankan Airlines is planning to start flights to Moscow in a bid to capture the tail end of the winter season in February, Chairman Ashok Pathirage said.
He said already about 30 passengers per flight were seen placing bookings.
Sri Lanka is allocating the 2,500 tourists among nine scheduled carriers, with SriLankan Airlines, which is operating the most flights a day getting the biggest allocation.
“We will manage it dynamically,” Director General of Civil Aviation Themiya Abeywickrema said.
SriLankan, Qatar, Etihad, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, China Eastern, Oman Airlines, Singapore and
Kuwait Airways, which have been flying to Sri Lanka before the Covid-19 pandemic are resuming operations. Maldivian and Ethiopian Airlines had also been given the go ahead.
“We are getting bookings. It will be small at the beginning,” Emirates Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Chandana De Silva said.
“May be about 80 passengers but we expect it to improve. We are not expecting overnight 200 to 300 passengers a flight. We may get about 40 to 50 a flight initially. We will co-ordinate with airport to manage the daily ceiling.”
Sri Lanka Tourism had certified about 150 hotels as ‘safe and secure’ with training given on how to handle tourists and take action. About 50 hotels have so far signed up to receive foreign tourists so far.
A hotel that houses foreigners cannot get local guests nor have banquets.
“We are trying to stop tourists from bringing Coronavirus to the community and from the community passing the virus to tourists,” Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said.
Sri Lanka is requiring all tourists to undergo a PCR test 96 hours before arrival. In Sri Lanka a test will be taken before arrival and another two based on how long they stay.
Fernando said there were concerns over upfront costs but at the moment the health protocol required the tests.
Sri Lanka Tourism has negotiated a price of 7,500 rupees per test from private hotels. Tourists also have to take a 12 dollar Covid-19 insurance cover of 50,000 which will cover the cost of ambulances, a hospital stay or in the worst case funeral costs.