For many island nations aviation is more than just a logistical lifeline: it is the economic basis for future prosperity. Nowhere is this more evident than in Sri Lanka, where tourism has been a driving force in transforming the economy since the end of the civil war there in May 2009.
Tourists are flocking to the country, with average monthly increases in visitor numbers rising between 20% and 25% in 2014 over 2013. But the growth is being carefully managed by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTA), with development projects restricted to a number of tourism zones. Even within these areas the focus is on preserving the unique features of the island. The Kalpitiya peninsular resort, which separates the Puttalam Lagoon from the Indian Ocean, is a marine sanctuary with diverse habitats ranging from bar reefs, flat coastal plains, saltpans, mangroves swamps, salt marshes and vast sand dune beaches. Passikudah is an eco-friendly development aimed at attracting surfers.
Tourism generated $1.7 billion to the economy in the 2013 and if current growth trends continue this figure could rise by at least 20% in 2014.
To cater for this growth the government has started on an ambitious aviation development plan which includes the modernization of Bandaranaike International Airport at Katunayake, construction of a new airport at Mattala in the South, development and modernization of fourteen domestic airports and the building of road network connecting all these facilities. According to the government’s aviation development masterplan these projects alone will provide around 5,000 new direct jobs and a further indirect 15,000 jobs through the supply of goods and services in related areas.”
Sri Lanka lies in the epicenter of the world’s fastest growing economic regions and the SLTA has set itself a target of hosting 2.5 million tourists by 2016. In 2013, 1.2 million tourists visited the island and the new facilities have turned Sri Lanka into a truly global, cosmopolitan destination, attracting increasing numbers of visitors from China, India and the Middle East as well as from traditional markets in Europe, North America and Australasia.
And its ideal location at the cross roads of major traffic flows between Africa/Middle East and Asia/Australasia means that even when aircraft do not land at the airport the country’s aviation authorities profit from safely managing the airspace above.