Boarding Soon: Direct Flights between Nepal-Sri Lanka

6 November 2014

Direct flights between Nepal and Sri Lanka—through capital cities Kathmandu and Colombo—are scheduled to resume in early 2015. This move is expected to boost connectivity, further increasing trade and tourism between the two countries.

Flights between Nepal and Sri Lanka were put on hold in the early 1980s due to air safety issues and social unrest. In a bid to strengthen trade and tourism links, a bilateral Air Service Agreement was signed in 2009 during Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's state visit to Nepal. Set to fly the Colombo-Kathmandu route in 2015 are Mihin Lanka Airline and Sri Lankan Airlines.

Tourism opportunities are clear: Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha, rests in the Rupandehi District of Nepal, and with 70% of Sri Lanka's population comprising Buddhists, this is an important pilgrimage site for Sri Lanka, consistently landing the country among Lumbini's top 5 visitors:

Visitors to Lumbini: Top 5 Countries of Origin 2012-2013

COUNTRY

2013

2012

% Change

Sri Lanka

35,424

52,671

-32.74

Thailand

30,695

28,480

7.78

Myanmar

16,797

17,595

-4.54

China

13,659

8,753

56.05

Republic of Korea

5,428

5,158

5.23

  Source: Ministry of Tourism, Government of Nepal

Though data from Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism show a 33% decrease in tourists from Sri Lanka in 2013, resumption of incoming direct flights may soon reverse the trend.

Both Nepal and Sri Lanka are founding members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation. This development in air connectivity will bolster relations between the two countries, allowing them to maximize potential not just in tourism, but also in trade, investment and joint economic cooperation.

The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation is enhancing safety and addressing capacity concerns at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) through the Air Transport Capacity Enhancement Project. This loan/grant of US$ 80 million from the Asian Development Bank, with counterpart financing of US$ 12 million from the Government of Nepal, is upgrading TIA's airfield side infrastructure to meet international safety standards, and includes provision to rehabilitate landside infrastructure, and upgrade air traffic management equipment.


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