With Sri Lanka on a tourism boom after the recent end of its 26 year old terrorist war, an airline official was however keeping his fingers crossed that the UN Panel’s adverse war crimes report on the island would not boomerang on the industry.
Gihan Karunaratne, Country Manager Sri Lanka & Maldives, Oman Air, told reporters on Tuesday that the industry has had no adverse repercussions because of the UN war crimes report which has called for an investigation.
He further said that the Airline’s Country Manager in Germany had told him that there is a clamour among German tourists to visit the island despite this adverse report. Germany is Sri Lanka’s third largest tourism generating market. At one time it occupied the top slot.
When asked whether there would an impact in the event that crisis was not resolved, he said that he hoped, as a Sri Lankan that such a thing would not happen.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa targets a tourist arrival figure of 2.5 million by 2016.
But the fear among certain quarters is that if the Government of Sri Lanka won’t act on the UN Panel’s war crimes report, backed by the West in the final days of its war against terrorism, which accuses Colombo of complicity of committing such crimes and calls for an investigation of such, that that may be a precursor to sanctions being imposed on the island.
The West is also Sri Lanka’s single largest tourism generating market. Countrywise, India occupies the top slot.
Karunaratne said that in the first four months of the year his airline had an over 80% load factor (85% inbound and 88% outbound).
Due to this resurgence in airline travel, the airline would, from next month, up its flights to Colombo from five times weekly, to daily. It flies an A330 aircraft which can carry 20 business class and 190 economy class passengers, to Colombo.
Karunaratne said that the inbound tourism boom on his airline was led by Germany, France and UK (Sri Lanka’s number two tourism generating market) and of late also increased interest from Italy. He said that the outbound market comprised a mix of Sri Lankan workers to the Middle-East who offload at Muscat, and those travelling to London.