SriLankan Airlines expands base in India, adds 3 new cities to woo Indian tourists

 Saturday, February 4, 2023 


In a bid to attract more Indian tourists, SriLankan Airlines has planned to start operations from additional three cities in India. At present, it flies out of nine Indian cities.

Speaking to Mint, SriLankan Airlines’ CEO Richard Nuttall said“We are currently flying to nine destinations in India and we intend to add three new destinations. Before the pandemic, we were the third largest international airline flying out of India,” he added.

Indians accounted for nearly 3.9 lakh tourists to the country in 2019. Today India is the number one source market for Sri Lanka, along with Russia.

The state-owned airline entity has also launched a new marketing campaign specific to the Indian market.

The company has also launched its new marketing campaign ‘Dil Full of Sri Lanka’ where it’s bundling one plus one tickets for flyers along with four and five star hotel stays at lower costs. For this, it has tied up with select travel agents to retail these.

“We are also doing a media campaign in the India market as well which is live on radio, print and digital across India,” the CEO said.

For SriLankan Airlines, the business started to finally pick up after the covid-19 pandemic in December 2021. But the country ran out of fuel and then had a change in regime which also led to running out of aviation fuel.

“There was an overblown global coverage of our political crisis. But as an airline industry, by being very tactical about where we fly, we may likely break even by the end of this financial year and have the best financial performance we have had in this year,” said Nuttall.

When it did not have any aviation fuel for two months, the company stopped over in India to take fuel stops to buy jet fuel from vendors in Chennai and started to tanker fuel from here.

“Indian authorities understood why we were doing this and we ran almost a full schedule of flights starting July 2022 around the world owing to these stops,” he said.

The company is currently using its own operational cash flows as interest rates don’t allow companies to borrow too much from institutions.

“Tourism disappeared during this time. At the moment, we are almost back to 2019 revenues but passenger numbers are 65-70% due to some fleet challenges and have 18 aircrafts flying and hope to get back to where we were in the next 12-18 months. But we are not the only airline that is constrained around the world,” he added.

Outbound trips from India are expected to account for $42 billion by 2024 with approximately 80 million passport holders and a growing population being major contributors to the increase, as per a report titled, Outbound Travel and Tourism: An Opportunity Untapped by Government and Public Sector Advisory, Nangia Andersen LLP and FICCI.

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