Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, may be out of bounds for many international passengers, especially tourists for the next three months. The reason is that the runway in its main airport will be resurfaced to give it a new look. This may take some time understandably. What does this mean for Sri Lanka and the world? Let’s find out.
Will this affect Sri Lanka’s economy?
Colombo is a port country and the major business and financial activities hub in Sri Lanka. It is also the largest city in the island country and attracts heavy international traffic all through the year. The country is heavily dependent on the tourism industry and undoubtedly the tourism industry is dependent on the most important airport in the city, name the Bandaranaike International Airport.
After years of internal turmoil, strife and endless internecine wars, the country is back on a path of stable economic growth and its per capita GDP is the better than most of its South Asian peers. While sectors like tea, apparel, textile and agriculture also contribute heavily to the economy, there is no easy denying that the country is dependent on tourism for increasing its already impressive foreign exchange reserve, given the size of the country and its population.
If flights get delayed or canceled for the next three months, it is highly likely that the number of flights may be reduced in order to control the air traffic and this would automatically reduce the number of passengers flying in and out of the country.
According to reports, the Bandaranaike International Airport will be shut down between 8 am to 4:30 pm every day. This will no doubt disrupt the flow of traffic even though the vast majority of international flights usually arrive or depart in the wee hours of the morning or late in the night.
Moreover, as per the updated travel advisory published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, passengers have been requested to check in five hours prior to departure in order to avoid the potential chaos and long queues, instead of the usual three hours.
Sri Lankan Airlines, which runs a service at Heathrow in the UK as well as other places in the world have submitted that their check-in counters shall remain open five hours prior to the departure and will be closed 60 minutes prior to the scheduled time of departure. Additionally, it has also informed that passengers arriving 90 minutes or later to the scheduled time of departure won’t be allowed to proceed for check-in.
The renovation work which is already underway would also mean that between January 6th 2017 and April 6th 2017, the lobby in the Colombo international airport will stay out of bounds for the passengers.
In order to avoid standing in long queues, passengers can check-in online or use self-service kiosks at the departure terminal.
What does this mean for international passengers, especially from the UK?
Colombo is a favorite tourist destination for many who love its sandy beaches and the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean. Many travel on business tours too. Due to the imposed restrictions and unavailability of certain facilities, it might happen that the air traffic may decrease considerably during this period.
This may temporarily affect the economy but since, resurfacing will add to the value of the airport and to its safety, it will definitely have long-term benefits for this island nation.
However, the Government of Sri Lanka and their national airlines are trying their best to maintain normalcy to the extent possible and if you follow the guidelines, you won’t be in for nasty surprises on your arrival to Colombo. You can also have a smooth transit.