Sunday, Dec 22, 2002
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By T.S. Shankar
"We are happy that the Sri Lankan Government is using the current peace process not only to attract investors in the infrastructure area but to promote tourism," Mr. Pelpola said in an interview here on Friday.
"Our present goal is to encourage more point-to-point non-stop operations. And in this regard, Frankfurt, Rome and China form part of our future network. Kochi will be the new destination with the airline proposing to open up the route with tri-weekly flights from April next year. At present, the Sri Lankan national carrier operates three flights to Bangalore, six to New Delhi, four to Mumbai, five to Tiruchi, 13 to Chennai, 7 to Thiruvananthapuram and one to Bodh Gaya, with a fleet of nine Airbus aircraft (two Airbus-320s, four Airbus-330s and 3 Airbus-340s). So, I would see us within the next 18 months inducting a minimum of another two Airbus-320s and two Airbus-340s," he said.
"After so many years of negative or no growth because of varied insurgency problems, the Government had to find a quick way for developing Sri Lanka. And the quickest way for development is through the tourism sector," Mr. Pelpola said, while explaining the impetus provided by the Government to make Sri Lanka a destination for all age groups.
And in that endeavour, what was lacking was the convenient air links.
That is where the Sri Lankan Airlines came into play to bridge this gap, as it has linked over 30 destinations globally.
In tune with the requirements of Sri Lanka "we have a gateway where businessmen from all over the world can come. We are trying our best to develop Sri Lanka as a business centre, gearing up as a cargo centre, besides making it an overall family tourist destination," he said.
On matters concerning security, the chairman said "we took on possibly the organisation ranked foremost in that area and naturally security had to be a prime concern. It is true that we are guarded even after the peace dividend has come and we cannot let the guard down because it has other political implications. I do not think for the normal tourists, security has ever been, or certainly is no longer a concern. It is easier to pass through our customs and immigration rather than the U.S. where you are asked to remove your shoes and check whether there are any explosives. It is true that the baggage is checked twice."
Calling for a pragmatic approach by the Indian Government to strengthen the bilateral air ties, Mr. Pelpola said it would be in the interest of the two Governments to augment the services.
On the bombing of the airfield, the chairman said it made the airline sit back and review its core business.
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