MRIA celebrates its 10th Anniversary today
March 18, 2023
Amid challenges, hope emerges
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), the second international airport in Sri Lanka, which was inaugurated on 18th March 2013, celebrates its 10th anniversary today (18th March 2023). The airport has passed a decade of many challenges, and currently, it is emerging with aspirations to expand Sri Lanka’s aviation industry.
The airport continued operations from its inception until 2015. However, during the period of 2015 to 2020, the scheduled international airline operations were discontinued. However, again in 2020, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) (Private) Limited launched its strategies to revive international airport operations.
However, the airport had to again face unexpected challenges due to the global pandemic situation. The airport was able to serve the repatriation flight operations during the global pandemic and facilitated 17,421 passengers in 2020 and 32,945 passengers in 2021. However, the political and economic crisis that prevailed in the country during the year 2022 affected the continuation of its charter flight operations that the airport was facilitating to new tourist destinations such as Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, etc. The airlines and the tourists arriving from destinations such as Ukraine and Russia were affected by the war situation too.
In the year 2023, with the gradual recovery of the economic situation of the country, there will be satisfactory growth in the number of international tourists arriving through the exotic gateway. For example, MRIA facilitated 11,926 international tourists in February 2023, while Sri Lanka's tourism industry recorded 107,639 international tourist arrivals in February 2023, representing a growth of 11.5% compared to February 2022. Further, during the month of February, MRIA facilitated over 72 international aircraft movements.
It is noteworthy to mention the top five source markets for Sri Lanka in February as the Russian Federation, 29,084 (27%), India, 13,714 (13%), the United Kingdom, 8,575 (8%), Germany, 7,930 (7%), and France, 6,118 (6%). MRIA has been able to attract more Russian tourists to the country through the charter flight operations of Red Wings Airlines of Russia, which operates four flights a week. Further, resuming charter operations, MRIA was able to facilitate the first charter flight of SCAT Airlines of Kazakhstan on 6th March 2023. During the past few months, unveiling its untapped potential, MRIA has been able to attract international tourists to the most famous destinations surrounded by well-known tourist attractions, such as wildlife, beaches, and cultural and religious places contributing to the socio-economic development in the region. In addition, MRIA has been a key strategic airport for technical stops for several international airlines, and it's noteworthy to highlight that MRIA has been a preferred choice for those international airlines for technical stops during the past few years.
While it is attempting to make use of the resources at MRIA and enhance the connectivity by attracting airlines and facilitating the travel and tourism industry to do more flight operations from and to MRIA, AASL is taking every step possible to increase the socio-economic contribution of the airport to the country. As a result of that, with the approval of the Cabinet of Parliament, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Private Limited (AASL) is in the process of calling proposals for investments in the establishment of MRO facilities, Aerospace Engineering and Manufacturing, Fixed Based Operations (FBO), air-sea cargo processing, aircraft disassembly and recycling, hospitality, tourism, recreation & leisure, adventure, freight forwarding, courier services, resort hotels, and villas, branded shopping outlets, industrial parks (manufacturing, packaging, warehousing), and the renewable energy industry, etc.
Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Private Limited has recognized the strategic importance of Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport and expects to continue its efforts to increase the contribution of the airport to the socio-economic development of the country.
Photos by: AASL Media