- Airport to reopen in July for first time since pandemic
- AASL says Mannar, Jaffna Kovil festival visitors can disembark in North
- SLTDA expects Indian tourist flow from the move
By Imsha Iqbal
The Sri Lankan Government is planning to reopen Jaffna International Airport (JIA) in Palaly, anticipating to attract tourists for upcoming festivals that are going to take place in kovils (Hindu temples) in the area, The Morning Business learns.
During a recently held press conference in Jaffna, Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva stated that the Jaffna International Airport (JIA) in Palaly is to be reopened by July this year.
Speaking to The Morning Business, Airport and Aviation Sri Lanka (AASL) Chairman Maj. Gen. (Retd.) G.A. Chandrasiri stated: “There are two festivals coming up; one is the Thiruketheeswaram Kovil, and the other one is the Nallur Kovil.
Chandrasiri stated tourists who arrive to attend the aforementioned two festivals will be able to embark at the Palaly Airport, and added that the AASL is currently working on the airport’s reopening.
When The Morning Business inquired about the renovation expenses for the reopening of the airport, Chandrasiri stated that there was no specific expenditure for the reopening beyond the routine maintenance costs.
“It is because despite the fact that it was closed during the early days of the pandemic, it has been maintained well for the last two years, along with the manpower and equipment, which is the reason why that airport is expected to be reopened for operations in a mere 10-day period.”
The Thiruketheeswaram Kovil in Mannar is a hotspot for Hindu devotees, being one of the five great ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The annual festival takes place for ten days. At the same time, the Nallur Kovil festival takes place as a tribute to Lord Murugan at the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairman (SLTDA) Priantha Fernando said that a meeting was held with Prime Minister Ranil Wickrememsinghe regarding the opening of the JIA to make productive use of the airport in time to come.
Apart from JIA opening, Fernando highlighted that in August, there are five festivals in the country at which Indian tourists can be expected, as they have been arriving for this purpose in the past. Accordingly, road shows are expected to be carried out with the target of attracting these tourists, which are scheduled to commence on 10 July.
The Ministry of Tourism and Lands also conducted tourism promotions focussed on Indian tourists with the participation of a few Bollywood celebrities.