The Sri Lankan government has approved five new airlines to operate into the country before the end of this year aimed at boosting tourist arrivals following the easing of Covid curbs, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said.

Accordingly, Sweden’s Edelweiss Air will operate a weekly flight and Russia’s Aeroflot twice a week from November 1, while Air France will fly three times a week from November 3, reports Xinhua news agency.

In addition, from the first week of December, Russia’s AZUR Air and Italy’s Neos Air will fly twice a week to Colombo, the Minister said. The operations of these airlines into the country will be subject to strict health guidelines. “The aim is to enhance foreign earnings through the revival of the tourism industry and contribute to the national economy,” Ranatunga said.

With international travel having begun following the administration of the vaccine against Covid-19 globally, nearly 16,500 tourists had arrived in Sri Lanka between October 1 and 24, boosting hopes for the crisis-ridden industry. “The trend continues, October is likely to record the highest monthly arrivals for this year,” Ranatunga said. “With the easing of travel restrictions, there is a growing interest from global travellers to visit the country,” the Minister added.

According to official figures, September saw the highest arrival of 13,547 tourists, thereby boosting the first nine month’s figure to over 54,768. The majority of these tourists were from India, the UK, Pakistan, Russia, Germany, Maldives, Canada, France, the US and Indonesia.