Sri Lanka cheap flights: Government to cut airline charges in order to reduce fares as tourism drops

Sri Lanka's government says it will decrease ground handling charges for airlines and slash aviation fuel and embarkation taxes to help the country's vital tourism industry recover after the Easter attacks that killed more than 250 people.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said Tuesday that the government's decision would lead to an increase in the number of flights to Sri Lanka and a reduction in plane ticket prices. He said this would attract more tourists to the Indian Ocean island nation, which is famed for its pristine beaches.

 Arrival of tourists to Sri Lanka rapidly declined in June, dealing a severe blow to the Indian Ocean island nation's lucrative tourism industry in the aftermath of the Easter bombings that killed more than 250 people, the state-run tourism agency said Wednesday.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said there were 63,072 tourist visits to Sri Lanka last month, a drop of 57 per cent compared with June 2018, when the number was 146,828.

The authority said the highest number of tourist were from India, followed by the Australia, United Kingdom and China. Almost 97 per cent of tourists arrived by air.

SriLankan Airlines launched its first non-stop flights from Australia in October 2017, flying from Melbourne Airport to Colombo. Taxes and charges account for about 20 per cent of the fares currently listed on the airline's website for return flight from Melbourne.

Prior to the bombings, Australian visitor numbers to Sri Lanka were rising rapidly, up 400 per cent over 10 years. Lonely Planet named the country it's No.1 destination for 2019. 

The arrival of tourists for the first six months was 1,008,449, a decline of 13.4 per cent compared with 2018, when 1,164,647 visitors arrived.

Seven suicide bombers struck two Catholic and one Protestant church and three luxury hotels on April 21. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by a local radicalised Muslim group known as National Thowheed Jammath.

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The blasts killed more than 250 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the US and the UK.

Tourism was Sri Lanka's third largest foreign currency earner last year, after remittances and textile and garment exports.

Tourism accounts for 4.9 per cent of Sri Lanka's GDP. Last year, 2.3 million tourists visited, generating $US4.4 billion, a nearly 12 per cent jump from 2017. Around half a million SriLankans directly depend on tourism while 2 million depend on it indirectly.

The government expected an income of $US5 billion from tourism this year, but after the blast, it said revenue would decline to $US3.7 billion.

AP

See also: Airline review: SriLankan Airlines economy class

See also: Why Sri Lanka is Lonely Planet's top destination for 2019

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