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Sri Lanka says ‘Namaste’ to Indian Rupee

More visitors, airlines to take to the skies from Jaffna

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Sri Lanka is gearing up to validate the use of the Indian rupee as a currency of transaction that will clearly generate more travellers from the subcontinent.

The Sri Lankan tourism industry believes this is an opportunity that will encourage more visitors to tour the island nation.

Former Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) President Mahen Kariyawasam told the Business Times that this will attract more travellers from India to visit Sri Lanka.

He noted that this is a good move by the authorities and that it is likely to be implemented within about three weeks.

Travel Agents Association of India President Jyoti Mayal speaking to the Business Times on Thursday said that this is a very good initiative from both governments of India and Sri Lanka and that it would lead to ease of business when carrying out transactions.

She explained that however, they were awaiting clarity in certain areas of the transaction process like how much Indian rupees they can carry in cash and the tax procedures to be implemented when using it in addition to what denominations will be acceptable.

From the Sri Lankan authorities, Ms. Mayal said they expect the Indian currency to be permitted to be used starting from the duty free malls at the airport with goods priced in Indian rupees.

In fact, it was pointed out that hotels should offer Indian rupee rates and not dollar rates and noted that even when they were in Colombo for the TAAI conference while some hotels were willing to accept the Indian rupee others were not.

The Indian traveller will certainly feel comfortable since they will just be able to travel to Sri Lanka when they please with the money they have at home, she said adding “That’s the most beautiful thing about it.”

In fact, entry to tourist attractions should also accept the Indian rupee, Ms. Mayal said adding that it would be good if a state bank has a counter at the BIA airport “so we don’t lose out on the exchange rate.”

In the meantime with the increase in daily flights from the Jaffna International Airport (JIA) there has been a trend observed lately of the Tamil diaspora wanting to use this as a point of entry into the country via Chennai.

With the daily flight between Chennai – Jaffna- Chennai recently there has been a passenger load factor at around 95 per cent especially on India’s Alliance Air and as a result another airline is likely to join the skies from Jaffna next summer, JIA Manager Operations Lakhsman Wansekara said.

He noted that the next summer they expect more flights and another Indian carrier likely to operate between these destinations.

Approximately 50 per cent of the passengers are foreign passport holders, he said adding that they are mainly from Europe and Canada arriving directly in Jaffna to meet relatives.

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