SriLankan recently celebrated its 25 years of operations to Delhi at THE Park New Delhi.  The event was attended by an intimate gathering of journalists, mostly from the travel trade. In attendance were, of course, Chinthaka Weerasinghe, Manager-Northern India, SriLankan and Subhash Goyal, Chairman, STIC Group, among others.  

Subhash Goyal was lavish in his praise for Sri Lanka as a destination and wondered why it could not attract a million Indian tourists. “When Thailand can get a million Indian travellers, I wonder why Sri Lanka can’t. It has everything to offer,” he said, addressing the gathering. He also suggested that Indian visitors were taking to the Ramayana Circuit and spending more time exploring the country and its diverse offerings.

He made a special mention of the business opportunities emanating in India’s neighbourhood and advocated investing in the country. He also commended the airline for its service to travel and tourism in India and Sri Lanka and noted that the airline had connected the two nations. He mentioned that the fact needed to be highlighted by everyone.

SriLankan connected India and the larger Indian ocean like no other international airline, Chinthaka Weerasinghe said. He noted that the airline had played a pivotal role in driving inbound traffic into India, especially those attracted to pilgrimage and Buddhist tourism. “We ply seasonal flights to Bodh Gaya and Varanasi to cater to the demand,” he shared. He suggested that the airline was actively looking at new destinations, in Africa and others, but stopped short of sharing any more detail, noting that it was premature to disclose any details. For those unaware of the specifics, the Sri Lankan flag carrier currently operates to 13 destinations with 122 flights per week, making it the largest international airline operating to India, in terms of the number of destinations.  

Chinthaka repeatedly stressed on the importance of the Indian market for travel and tourism, sharing that as many as 3.5 lakh Indian travellers had already visited the Island nation in 2018. He expressed hope that, with the advent of the tourist season, as much as 4.5 lakh Indian tourists would visit the country. If one would recall, Sri Lanka had set its sight on hosting 4.4 lakh tourists in 2018 and if his assertions holds true, (it is highly likely that it will), Sri Lanka would have exceeded its expectations, raking unprecedented numbers.

STIC Group has been the airline’s GSA in India since 1974, even before the airline was in existence, as it was known as Air Ceylon before it got terminated in 1979. Chinthaka Weerasinghe quipped that STIC group and Subhash Goyal had been associated with the airline even before he was born.

The event was followed by drinks and lunch.