Colombo: Sri Lankan Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the country will resume flights from the northern Jaffna peninsula to India next month, asserting that the move would help the country's tourism industry and ease economic hardship. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority plans to attract 800,000 tourists during the rest of the year.

"The northern Jaffna peninsula's Palaly airport is to resume flights to India from next month," said De Silva on Saturday. However, he did not specify a date.

Resuming the flights would improve tourism and help the country in the current dollar crisis," he further added after inspecting the airport.

The present runway can only accommodate 75-seater flights and therefore needs to be extended, he said. He hoped for Indian assistance for runway improvements.

The airport was named the Jaffna international airport in October 2019. The first international flight to land there was from Chennai. The 2019 redevelopment of the airport was funded by both Sri Lanka and India. Earlier, India's Alliance Air conducted three weekly flights from Chennai to Palaly. However, after a government change in Sri Lanka in November 2019, the flight operations were halted. Sri Lanka is currently facing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948. The economic crisis has prompted an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and other fuel, toilet paper, and even matches, with Sri Lankans being forced to wait in lines lasting hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas. The island nation's economic downturn was largely blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic with the island nation's tourism revenue and inward remittances waning. —PTI



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