Sri Lankan officials have said they believe they will fall short of their tourism goals in 2019
SriLankan Airlines will report a loss of $160 million this year as the island nation’s tourism industry continues to struggle with the impact of a devastating terror attack in April, according to CEO Vipula Gunatilleka.
To prevent empty seats on its flights, the airline has slashed ticket prices and ground handling charges, as well as offered discounts.
“The forecast [for financial year ending March 2020] soon after the Easter Sunday attack is about $160 million…but I’ll be happy if I can cap it around $100 to $120 million,” Gunatilleka was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Additionally, Gunatilleka added that the April 21 attacks had forced the carrier to re-evaluate its scheduled break-even plan.
“My plan initially was (to break-even) in three years. But with the Easter attack, we may need four years,” Gunatilleka said.
For a decades, SriLankan Airlines was a joint venture with Dubai’s Emirates, until they split in 2008. The airline has accumulated debt of approximately $800 million as of the end of March 2019.
The government has failed to sell a 49 percent stake in the airline, despite interest from BlackRock and private equity firm TPG. Gunatilleka told Reuters that the government still hopes to sell the stake.
Speaking at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai in April, Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau chairman Kishu Gomes said that said officials estimate that Sri Lanka will fall short of its official target of attracting 2.5 million international tourists in 2019, and about a million people fewer than its “aspirational” target of 3 million.
In 2018, the country attracted 2.33 million visitors.