Sri Lanka welcomes first batch of foreign tourists since Covid-19 pandemic

Sri Lanka welcomes first batch of foreign tourists since Covid-19 pandemic

December 28, 2020   03:07 pm


A special charter flight carrying 180 tourists from Ukraine landed at the Mattala International Airport on Monday. 

The batch of foreign tourists, who arrived onboard a SkyUp Airlines flights, will be staying in the country for around 10-14 days, according to the Ministry of Tourism. 

They are the first group of tourists to arrive in the island since March this year when airports were closed in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Ukrainian budget carrier SkyUp operated the first charter flight to Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) on 28th December 2020 with 180 international tourists from Ukraine. The Boeing 737-900, flight no PQ555, arrived at MRIA at 1406 hrs. 

The flight was warmly welcomed with a water salute. Cultural dancing performances had been organized in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tea Board to welcome and entertain the tourists. 

With the eagerly awaited reopening of borders for international tourists, SkyUp Airlines was the first Airline to carry international tourists to Sri Lanka. The Airline operating has plans to operate charter flights up to the end of March 2021. 

Since March 2020, the international airports in Sri Lanka had been closed for international tourists due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited (AASL) said it had made all required arrangements to facilitate the flight operation in compliance with the guidelines of Sri Lanka Health Authorities. 

Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of Tourism, and D. V. Chanaka, State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development, were also present at the occasion to grace the flight operation. 

Major General (Rtd) G. A. Chandrasiri, Chairman of AASL, said “as the civil airport operator, Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited – (AASL) made all required arrangements to facilitate the international flights and international tourists. These arrangements have been made according to the health guidelines of the Sri Lanka Health Authorities.”

Sri Lanka has reopened its airspace for commercial flights as the island nation looks to once again kick start the tourism industry which was on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Accordingly the charter flight with 185 passengers from Ukraine which arrived today, marks the first flight to arrive under the pilot project aiming to bring back foreign tourists to Sri Lanka. 

Deputy Chairman of Airport and Aviation Sri Lanka Ltd, Rajiv Sooriyarachchi said that after this group of tourists reach the airport they will undergo all quarantine procedures and the airport staff is making the necessary arraignments. 

This is the first batch of foreign tourists to arrive in the island following the reopening of airports which were closed for commercial flights since March this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) had announced earlier that it will resume international flights operations from December 26, eight months after they were closed in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, a decision was taken to postpone the resumption of flights in the wake of the new coronavirus strain, which is spreading fast in the UK.

Due to the postponement, a flight carrying Russian tourists which was scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on Sunday had been cancelled.

However, the flight with a group of tourists from Ukraine was expected to arrive on Monday as scheduled.

Several countries across the world have already closed their land and sea borders and suspended commercial flights over fears about the new coronavirus strain.

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