December 1, 2012, 6:51 pm
by Suresh Perera
Passenger capacity at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is expected to surpass seven million by end 2012 as Sri Lanka moves steadily towards becoming an aviation and commercial hub, says Prasanna Wickramasuriya, Chairman, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited (AASL).
"We had reached a capacity of six million passengers per annum in 2011 and the process of expanding operations at the BIA is continuing to cater to the growing demand as Sri emerges as the Wonder of Asia", he stressed.
"It is imperative that we provide more facilities and comforts to passengers to encourage them to fly to Colombo", the AASL chief noted. "Plans are underway to construct another terminal so that capacity can be doubled by 2015".
As a country in a strategic geographical location, Sri Lanka has enormous potential as a key tourism and shopping destination, Wickramasuriya told a news conference at the BIA’s Silk Route VIP Lounge to announce the unveiling of the third ‘Christmas Shopping Festival’, the mega seasonal promotion to reward passengers patronizing the duty-free complex.
The promotion, organized for the third consecutive year by the BIA and AASL, will be held from December 1, 2012 to January 31, 2013. Passengers, who purchase goods to the value of US$ 10 or more from any shop at the Departure/Transit area or Arrival Duty Free Complex, will be eligible to enter the draw.
Eleven winners will stand the chance of bagging fantastic prizes including a brand new Panda Cross Car worth Rs. 2 million sponsored by Micro Car Company. The other prizes on offer are two laptops (sponsored by E-wis), two fridges (Abans), two LCD TVs (Softlogic), one LCD TV (Siedles) and three washing machines (Singer Sri Lanka).
In addition to the grand raffle prizes, passengers in Departure/Transit area can also win instant prizes daily at the ‘Wheel of Fortune’.
Wickramasuriya said that by end 2011, 867,000 tourists had visited Sri Lanka and it has been projected that the number of foreign visitors for 2012 will exceed one million. "This is very encouraging for a country, which needs to increase passenger capacity to become an aviation hub".
This is a golden era for Sri Lanka’s aviation industry which celebrates its centenary this year, he noted. "The proposed inauguration of the Mattala International Airport early 2013 will also give a big boost to the economy".
Referring to the ‘Christmas Shopping Festival’, the Chairman said the objective of the event is to popularize Sri Lanka amongst passengers as a key shopping destination.
Apart from building a cordial relationship between the staff and passengers, this endeavor will also contribute towards enhancing revenue for the BIA, which will reflect positively on the national economy, he explained.
Asked about the total value of the prizes lined up, Ms. Kaushali Munasinghe, AASL’s Head of Marketing, said, "Rs. 3 million for the grand raffle draw and Rs. 1 million for instant prizes".
"An airport mirrors the image and reputation of a country", said Dr. Lawrence Perera, Chairman, Micro Cars. "It is the first impression of visitors arriving in Sri Lanka".
"As the business community, we should support the BIA, a task which the government alone cannot handle", he explained.
There is a welcome change at the BIA – it is very nice and passengers feel at ease. It’s a great way to start, enthused Robert Lee, Chief Commercial Officer, Etisalat Lanka. "We are happy to make a contribution towards the success of this festival".
"The first point of contact for foreigners coming to Sri Lanka is the BIA, which is our gateway to the world", said Priyantha Talwatte, DGM, Nations Trust Bank (NTB).
Nimesh Udeshi, MD, Siedles said the positive decisions taken by Chairman Wickramasuriya helped to give duty-free shopping at the BIA a new dimension. "It has also added more value to the shopping fiesta every year".