Aussie arrivals soar on new Colombo flights, Sri Lanka-Maldives packages

Cancellations reported in February but impact expected to be felt in ensuing months, some resorts say

A new direct connection from Down Under has led to a sharp rise in Australian visitors to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, with operators further stoking the interest by offering joint Sri Lanka-Maldives tour packages.

After SriLankan Airlines commenced daily flights between Melbourne and Colombo in October 2017, Australian arrivals into Sri Lanka in the January-April period surged 58.3 per cent year-on-year to 38,100, while arrivals to the Maldives in January-March 2018 were up 40 per cent to 7,929.

Flights to the Maldives are boosting Australian inbound visitor volume from a small base

Suresh Dissanayake, assistant vice president – sales and marketing at Heritance Aarah and Adaaran resorts in the Maldives, said the Australian market is booming since the flights were launched. Prior to the new service, visitors mostly had to connect through Singapore on Singapore Airlines flights or Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific services.

“Previously we were getting many surfers from Australia mainly during the summer but with SriLankan Airlines’ direct flights, many groups are starting to come on tours combining Sri Lanka and the Maldives,” he said.

In Colombo, Nalin Jayasundera, managing director of Aitken Spence Travels, part of the group that owns Aarah and Adaaran resorts, said the direct flights have “helped tremendously”. He shared that more Australian operators are jointly promoting Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Beyond Travel Group, one of Australia’s oldest tour companies is among those promoting joint packages, and has seen positive results this year.

“We knew Sri Lanka was going to be one of 2018’s hottest destinations, and the Maldives is always popular for those seeking a decadent stop-and-flop vacation, but we didn’t expect so many customers would be keen to combine the two,’’ Sri Lanka & Beyond general manager sales and marketing Bryce Crampton was quoted as saying in a recent media report.

After foreseeing growth from Australia last year, Maldives’ local brand, Coco Collection, recently appointed a GSA in Australia, said Andrew Ashmore, the company’s group head of sales & marketing.

The GSA is bringing down a press team later this month to the Maldives on a fam tour, he shared, noting that they have seen a 50 per cent growth in Australian visitors at their resorts, albeit from a small base.

Maldives’ seaplane operator, Trans Maldivian Airways also confirmed a rise in Australian traffic to the resorts, also attributing this to the new service from SriLankan Airlines.

Australia is the sixth largest source market for Sri Lanka and the 11th for the Maldives.

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