SRI Lanka is planning to adopt an open skies policy to boost tourism numbers as it guns for 2.5 million arrivals in 2016, but aviation and travel experts are urging the government to proceed carefully.
Speaking at the ongoing Hospitality Investment Conference Indian Ocean in Colombo, finance minister Ravi Karunanayake said: “We are adopting an open skies policies similar to the Maldives to attract more visitors and encourage more investments.”
Although Sri Lanka does not formally have an open skies policy, in recent years it has granted more frequencies to foreign airlines. National carrier SriLankan Airlines currently accounts for over 60 per cent of flights.
Suresh Mendis, CEO at Classic Travels, expects the move to boost tourism and grow business but was unsure if the policy would have an effect without a reciprocal arrangement for SriLankan Airlines flying to other destinations.
Meanwhile, Sunil Peiris, aviation veteran and director of Jetwing Travels and Jetwing Air, warned that Sri Lanka needs to be cautious about the effect open skies has on national priorities.
“While the third and fourth freedoms, which apply to point-to-point travel is okay, the fifth and sixth freedoms have to be reciprocal, otherwise Sri Lanka could suffer,” he said.