Sri Lankan Airlines puts flight marshals on planes, tourist numbers to drop by 500,000

One week after the attacks in Sri Lanka, executives from the country’s Tourism Development Authority and national airline attended the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

AIR MARSHALS ON SRI LANKAN AIRLINES

Vipula Gunatilleka, the CEO of Sri Lankan Airlines, told Euronews that whilst the national air force had taken charge of ground security, the state-owned carrier was looking to bring air marshals on board some flights.

Despite increased security measures, a drop in visitor numbers to the island nation following the attacks would be inevitable, the airline chief added.

“Business, if you look at it in terms of the passenger numbers and the forward bookings, we have seen about a 10 percent decline,” said Gunatilleka. “Of course, we see cancellations coming from the European destinations, but our other markets like India and the Middle East have been holding on.”

CEO of Sri Lankan Airlines Vipula Gunatilleka speaking to Euronews

The CEO added that despite the current situation, day-to-day operations at the company couldn’t be ignored, emphasizing that the strategy to turn the loss-making airline into a profitable one was still in place.

“In the turnaround plan that we submitted to the government, we were expecting to reach a breakeven situation in three years time,” he said. “They have been looking for a private investor, but that will get delayed I believe, with the current situation. The biggest problem is that 45 percent of our losses are due to interest financing costs.”

VISITOR NUMBERS DROP, MILITARY MAKE RAIDS

Kishu Gomes, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, told Euronews that in the wake of recent events the situation on the ground had been brought, “under control”.

“Our military has been doing a lot of raids and search operations, in order to apprehend the culprits,” he said. “They were able to take over 100 suspects into custody, and they are being interrogated. Such operations are ongoing day in, day out, by the military forces and the police together.”

When asked if the government was right to block several social media networks in the aftermath of the attacks, Gomes said:

“In a difficult situation, you want to take all the measures necessary in order to stay calm. You know, create that calm environment. I guess that's why the government took that decision, but I'm sure over the next few days they're going to relax it with the military being able to come out and say the situation is under control.”

Gomes also spoke about gradually rebuilding the country’s tourism sector by looking at popular destinations that have also suffered attacks. He cited Bali, Paris, Bangkok and London as similar cases.

The Chairman said that an official statement, “over the next two to three weeks,” would go some way towards helping nationals and tourists, “regain that lost confidence”.

The country’s Tourism Authority has revised down this year's projected visitor numbers by 500,000 people to 2 million.

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