The Sri Lankan government and tourism authorities have now taken steps to clarify any misconceptions and grey areas around the proposed plan to re-open Sri Lanka’s borders from the last week of December 2020.
Accordingly, the initial opening of airspace and borders that was set for 26 December 2020 is only a pilot project and not a formal one. The pilot project will be used to stress test protocols that have been put in place to handle the potential influx of tourists once the country’s borders are formally opened for international tourism by mid-January.
The pilot project is expected to continue for about a month, until the Government formally announces the resumption of international tourism in mid-January.
P. A Jayakantha, Additional Director General of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority told the Daily News that limited passenger flights from Russia and China are expected to land in the country on 26 December 2020. However, a top official of Airport and Aviation Services (Lanka) Ltd, the state-owned airport operator told the Daily FT that “negotiations are still on-going, particularly with regard to the landing airport. No decision has been made on whether it [the flight/s] will land at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) or Mattala International Airport (MIA)”.
Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando has stated that the body is awaiting guidance from health authorities on the final protocols that are to be followed, while assuring stakeholders that all protocols will be followed to the letter.
In preparation for the re-opening of borders, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has managed to certify nearly 70 hotels as ‘Safe and Secure’. These 70 hotels account for a capacity of nearly 6,500 rooms.
The Health Ministry’s COVID-19 Clinical Management Expert Committee in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tourism had earlier said that no more than 300 tourists per day in total would be allowed at both airports – Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and Mattala International Airport (MIA). Under socially-distanced seating arrangements, this number would at best, amount to only a handful of flights per day.
The Daily News also reported that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had approved a proposal to formulate travel bubbles between selected countries. A travel bubble is an arrangement for air travel between certain countries, and those who make use of the bubble will be subject to minimum restrictions when travelling.