Colombo, Jan 17 (IANS): In a bid to boost tourism, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday lifted a 25-year ban on the operation of helicopter flights by private operators from Colombo.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority, private tourist helicopters can now land at the Defence Ministry grounds on Galle Face in Colombo, reports Xinhua news agency.
Four local operators have been granted permission to re-start flights.
“We were waiting for a long time for this opportunity,” Skylark Aviation Flight Operations Manager Captain Ravi Dharmawickrama told the Daily Financial Times, saying it was a “major landmark” in Sri Lanka’s aviation history.
“We can service the tourism sector better and contribute more to the economy,” he said.
According to Dharmawickrama, many high-spending tourists prefer to travel quickly between major tourist sites on the island while enjoying the scenic views provided by helicopter flights.
Sri Lanka is eyeing at least two million tourist arrivals in 2020 and 10 million per year by 2025.
Last year, Sri Lanka achieved 1.9 million tourist arrivals with over 240,000 visiting in December, statistics from Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) showed last week.
India, China, Britain, Russia and Australia were the top five markets for Sri Lankan tourism last year.