Ukraine’s first charter flight carrying tourists is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on 28th December, an official said. The resumption of tourism in the Indian Ocean island during the Coronavirus era ended with the closure of the airport in March 2020. Ukrainian Skype Airlines will take the first passenger complement to Mattala Airport in Sri Lanka on 28th December, said Shehan Sumanasekera, Director of Airports and Aviation (Sri Lanka).
The Skype Boeing 737-900 is scheduled to land at 1440 hrs. The second Ukrainian international carrier, the Boeing 737-900, is expected to land on 29th December at 1215 hrs. The Aeroflot flight, which was scheduled to land on 27th December, had already been canceled. Sri Lanka has announced that the airport will be open for commercial flights and pilots from 26th December.
Mr. Sumanasekera said Russian tourists would receive assistance from the Sri Lankan tourism authorities until they leave. An official from the tourism sector said it was part of a pilot project led by the authorities to study the potential of Russian tourists opening up the country to tourism.
The official said the government was planning to attract about 50,000 tourists before the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in September. Tourists arrive with a pre-departure negative PCR test taken 72 hours in advance and will also be tested after they arrive at their hotel. Tourists stay in designated hotels and are monitored by an online application.
Sri Lanka’s tourism sector has been hit hardest by the coronavirus. Although Sri Lanka attracted 1.9 million tourists in 2019, the country’s main hotels and churches were bombed after several attacks on Easter Sunday that year. However, in 2020, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, Sri Lanka closed its borders in mid-March, following the infection of a travel guide, the first local patient. About 500,000 tourists have so far arrived in Sri Lanka as of March. Russia is one of the top ten sources of tourism in Sri Lanka and 86,832 Russian tourists arrived in the country in 2019. Especially in December 2019, tourists from the Russian Federation were the third-highest number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka.