Airport to open on health sector recommendations

Elwanda Tulloch

The first copy of the newspaper being presented to State Minister D.V.Chanaka by ANCL Chairman W. Dayaratne PC, Editorial Director and senior journalist Dharma Sri Kariyawasam, Ministry Secretary S.Hettiarachchi, Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Dhammika Wijesinghe, Deputy General Manager (Corporate Planning and Financial Services) Sumith Kothalawala and Managing Editor – Government Relations Samantha Karunasekara were present.

Pictures by Ranjith Asanka

State Minister of Aviation and Export Development D. V. Chanaka stated that the government is ready to open the airport within 12 hours if recommended by the health sector in view of the prevailing situation in COVID-19.

He pointed out that at present all airports have been converted into corona-free airports, adding that the country’s existing health facilities as well as the ability of the country to start with an affordable number of corona patients will determine the airport’s readiness to open whenever health recommendations are received.

He was speaking at the launch of the official newspaper and online newspaper of the Ministry of Tourism “Sancharaka” at Lake House yesterday (25) morning.

The official newspaper and online newspaper of the Ministry of Tourism, jointly published by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Development Authority, were launched at this event.

Distributed free of charge with the Dinamina newspaper, this newspaper contains a wealth of information on the tourism industry in Sri Lanka and the challenges and opportunities available to it, and is equally useful to all Sri Lankans.

The State Minister further stressed that the Ministry of Tourism and Lake House have taken steps to make the public aware of the future of the tourism industry through this supplement at a time when airports around the world are facing the biggest challenge in the tourism industry.

“At present, boosting the tourism industry is a big challenge. Through this supplement, our hope is to develop the tourism industry locally and to promote it through Sri Lankans. The tourism sector has been one of the fastest growing sectors since the 2009 war victory. By 2012, according to the New York Times, Sri Lanka had become the best destination for tourists’. According to Lonely Planet Magazine, by 2014, Sri Lanka was selected as the best country to visit. The situation was similar in 2018 and 2019. Every year since 2009, the tourism industry had grown by 20%”, he added.

“But unfortunately due to the Easter Sunday attack in 2019, the tourism industry suffered a severe setback with arrivals dropping by about 40%. However, the first thing that the new President did when he was elected was to take steps to abolish the 15 percent VAT on tourism. With the removal of taxes from the tourism industry, the industry that collapsed with the Easter attack began to recover. But a few months later, the world had to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Flights had to be restricted with that situation”, State Minister D.V.Chanaka further highlighted.

As a Ministry, the airports have been converted into corona-free airports and the necessary facilities have been provided. Also, airports can be opened at any time within 12 hours after being notified by the health authorities. We hope to attract 7 million foreign tourists and generate $ 10 billion in revenue in future. But with the current pandemic situation, things have become even more challenging. But, as a country, we must all work together to overcome challenges,” the State Minister said.

Speaking at the ceremony, Chairman of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited President’s Counsel W. Dayaratne pointed out that today the tourism industry in our country has fallen to a low level.

“Steps have been taken to commemorate World Tourism Day tomorrow despite all obstacles faced by the tourism industry. And also, the steps have been taken to launch a tourism newspaper for this purpose. Our international airport, which was closed on March 15, 2020, is still closed. Curfew had to be imposed for 52 days for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka due to the COVID pandemic. This had an impact on the tourism industry. Also, due to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, the tourism industry suffered a severe setback,” ANCL Chairman Dayarahne added.

“The President and the Prime Minister took steps to provide relief and credit facilities to those in the tourism industry. Under the National Policy Framework “Visions of Prosperity and Splendour” programme, Lake House has taken steps to make the tourism newspaper an online newspaper. Steps have also been taken to transform this tourism newspaper into a printed newspaper as well as an online newspaper.

Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd is a subsidiary for any government function. We extend our fullest support to the Government, including the President and the Prime Minister”, the ANCL Chairman added.

Dinamina Chief Editor Gamini Jayalath also spoke at the event. State Minister of Aviation and Export Development D.V. Chanaka also launched the travel newspaper online.

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