- Key move likely to draw around 2,000 and 5,000 Israeli tourists to Sri Lanka from May to September
- Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga says discussions on with other countries to resume direct flights as well
In a bid to boost tourism post-COVID, Israel and Sri Lanka have agreed to launch direct flights by next month, a top Minister confirmed.
The move follows successful discussions between the Embassy of Israel and the Tourism Ministry following the reopening of borders in January. The resumption of the direct flights are being implemented on the instructions of Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga.
Flights between Israel and Sri Lanka are expected to attract around 2,000 and 5,000 Israeli tourists to Sri Lanka during the May to September travel season.
“At present we are in discussion with Israel to commence direct flights in the immediate future. We are also in discussions with few other countries to resume their direct flights to Sri Lanka,” the Tourism Minister told the Daily FT.
In 2019 Sri Lanka attracted 14,770 tourists from Israel up by 6.8% compared to the 13,833 recorded in 2018. In general, Sri Lanka has seen an influx of Israeli tourists during May to September.
Prior to the COVID outbreak, around 35 airlines operated direct flights to Sri Lanka. However, post-COVID only Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Singapore Airlines, China Eastern, Ukraine Airlines, Air Astana and Oman Air have resumed flights to Sri Lanka.
Noting that countries are focusing on reviving the tourism industry by following health guidelines along with vaccination programs, Ranatunga said that Sri Lanka too is taking steps to resume flights as usual, focusing on achieving its tourism goals whilst adhering to the health protocols underlined by the health authorities.
In the first quarter, Sri Lanka attracted a total of 9,629 international tourists after the country’s borders were opened on 21 January to resume international tourism. In 2020, first quarter or pre-COVID, Sri Lanka received 507,704 tourists. In March 2020 there were 71,370 tourists with the arrivals decreasing as a result of the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic globally. January and February last year saw over 200,000 tourists arriving per month.