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Adani Group could run three Sri Lankan airports, including Bandarnaike International : Harin Fernando

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COLOMBO : Sri Lankan authorities have plans to work with industrialist Gautam Adani-led Adani Group to manage the country’s airports, according to Harin Fernando, the Island Nation’s Minister for Tourism, Land, Sports, and Youth Affairs.

“There are plans to work with the Adani Group for the management of airports,” Fernando. Negotiations are currently underway, and the Indian business conglomerate is being offered three airports, including Colombo’s Bandarnaike International Airport. Sri Lanka’s premier international gateway, which opened in 1970, is named after Solomon Bandarnaike, the fourth prime minister.

The other two facilities are Ratmalana Airport (also in Colombo) and Mattala Airport. In 2017, the latter was dubbed ‘The World’s Emptiest International Airport’ by Forbes due to low number of flights despite the facility’s large size.

The plan to rope in a private partner to manage airports comes at a time when Sri Lanka has seen a resurgence in tourism, with 1.48 million (14.8 lakh) visitors coming here in 2023, with the number nearly doubling from the previous year.

With 37% arrivals, India accounted for the largest group of tourists to Sri Lanka in 2023.

Maiden overseas aviation foray

While the Adani Group currently has a portfolio of eight airports in India, the deal with Sri Lanka, if it goes through, would be its first such overseas aviation foray. However, it is already present in the Indian Ocean nation’s ports and renewable energy sectors, having secured a $553 million (approx. ₹4600 crore) funding for its Colombo-based west container terminal project, with the said funds coming from the US International Development Finance Corporation.

“We are targeting 2.3 million (23 lakh) tourists in 2024, and we are quite hopeful we will reach the target. By 2030, we hope to attract four million visitors. That’s why we have to go for massive development projects,” Fernando, the Sri Lankan minister, said.

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