Colombo, Jan 22 Sri Lanka has completely reopened its borders to tourists and international arrivals, after flight operations were suspended 10 months ago in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
An Oman Air flight carrying 50 Sri Lankans arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo early Thursday, reports Xinhua news agency.
Speaking to the media here, Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga thanked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for reviving the Covid-19-affected tourism industry which employs three million people.
Ranatunga however said the country was not targeting a particular number of tourists at this juncture for the year, as it was too early to predict.
"We are trying to attract as many tourists as possible," he said.
"All airlines that were operating to Sri Lanka pre-Covid have expressed interest in resuming operations. But given the pandemic situation, we understand that it will take time to gradually get to the same level of operations."
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimarli Fernando said that the Tourism Ministry has formulated detailed safety protocols and procedures in consultation with the Health Ministry and the presidential task force on Covid-19.
"With all these measures, processes and protocols sat in place, Sri Lanka is ready and Sri Lanka is open to welcome back our visitors," Fernando said.
Tourism authorities have created an online information portal and a 24-hour operational centre, with which tourists can have access to support and information updates via phone or e-mail.
Sri Lanka currently has a PCR testing capacity for 2,500 tourist arrivals per day.
Tourists will have to purchase insurance and pay for their own PCR tests.
Currently, there is no quarantine period or minimum stay set for visiting tourists.
The Bandaranaike International Airport in the country's west and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in the south are both currently opened to scheduled and chartered flights from at least eight airlines including the island nation's flag carrier SriLankan Airlines.
On Thursday, Sri Lanka registered more than 800 new coronavirus cases, increasing the national tally to to 56,076.
The overall death toll stood at 274.
( With inputs from IANS )
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