SriLankan boosts services to China

SriLankan Airlines will increase its Colombo-Beijing service and hopes to expand services to Shanghai by the end of 2006 in a bid to become the No 1 choice for Chinese travellers, according to a chief representative from the company.

"By the end of 2006, SriLankan Airlines will increase its Colombo-Beijing service from three times a week to five times a week and will also expand services to Shanghai," said Chanaka Olagama, country manager with SriLankan Airlines China.

"We need Chinese travellers. This is how SriLankan Airlines can grow," he said.

SriLankan Airlines flies to 49 destinations in 27 countries. Its focus has been the travel and leisure market from China to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, as well as services for Chinese travellers to other regions including South Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Since it entered the Chinese market last June, the airline has worked closely with inbound travel agencies in Beijing and outbound tourism agencies in Sri Lanka to promote travel packages for Chinese travellers who seek culture tours and inland adventures in Sri Lanka.

The airline launched a roundtrip between Beijing and Maldives in early April, and recently offered a special rate to Sri Lanka.

"We will conduct all-year travel promotions for Chinese customers," said Olagama.

SriLankan Airlines is not new to most Chinese travellers, but the airline is keen to lift its profile in China.

Popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka include Negombo and Kandy; the airline also carries passengers to hotspots such as India, Thailand and the Maldives via Sri Lanka.

"This meets demand from more discerning Chinese tourists who want to visit more destinations during one trip," said Olagama.

The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Beijing is also on board the country's tourism campaign. "We will provide as simple and easy formalities as possible for Chinese people to obtain a visa," said Majintha Jayesinghe, second secretary with the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Beijing.

The airline began its thrice-weekly service between Colombo and Beijing on June 15 last year, with an average seat occupancy rate of 90 per cent.

But Olgama refused to provide any further detail on figures. "The business is profitable, and we can cover costs," he said.

Covering costs is obviously not what the company expects to do in China. "We will try to raise revenue by fighting against the existing 'price war' here, as cheaper prices have made it impossible for us to gain much ground," said Olagama.

SriLankan Airlines, Thai Airlines and Air China have joined together to discuss the issue. "We will set the price at the same level, which would benefit us all," he said.

Source: China Daily

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