SriLankan Airlines has announced plans to boost its flight schedule to the Middle East. The new schedule will increase to 37 weekly connections, up from 32, to nine cities in the Middle East - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Doha, Muscat, Dammam, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait. Additional flights are to three cities - Doha which increases from the present 4 flights up to 6; Bahrain which goes from 5 to 7; and Dammam which will have 3 flights, up from the present 2.
The government identified the Middle East as one of four major thrust markets to Sri Lanka, and has launched a series of marketing campaigns to raise awareness of the island’s attractions. There has been an 80% increase in Middle Eastern tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2008.
Mohamed Fazeel, Regional Manager Middle East, Africa and CIS, said, “We are strengthening our Middle East network, as there has been a significant increase in demand for flights in the region, and we see a lot of potential for growth. Our focus is on leisure travellers, and airline’s leisure arm SriLankan Holidays has unveiled several packages to cater especially to Middle Eastern tourists who want to visit Sri Lanka.”
Sri Lanka is growing in popularity as a leisure destination among Middle Eastern travellers, and western expatriates working in the region who are drawn to the island’s golden beaches, mist-swathed tea plantations, and ancient cultural sites. An increasing number, including women travellers, also try out the country’s many adventure sports.
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Tourism has taken a keen interest in promoting the country in the Middle East. The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Board has launched a series of advertising campaigns in major media in the Middle East to increase interest in Sri Lanka as a leisure destination. More campaigns are running in June and planned for July.
The airline’s new packages include ‘Kids Go Free’ which encouraged family vacations by offering free packages to children under 12 when their parents bought packages; and ‘Island Breaks’ which promoted short stopover holidays in Sri Lanka among travellers transiting Colombo to other leisure destinations.