Adani Group is negotiating with Sri Lankan authorities to manage three airports in the island nation, including its premier international gateway, Bandarnaike International Airport in Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s minister for tourism, land, sports, and youth affairs, Harin Fernando, said on Friday that modalities are being discussed between the two sides and could involve management contracts as well.
Other airports being offered are Ratmalana Airport in Colombo and Mattala Airport, the latter earning the tag of the world’s emptiest international airport seven years ago.
“There are plans to work with Adani Group for the management of airports,” Fernando told businessline on the sidelines of the OTM travel show in Mumbai.
The plan to rope in a private partner to manage airports comes amid a resurgence in tourism. Foreign tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka doubled to 1.48 million in 2023 on a year-on-year basis. This, however, has put a strain on the country’s airport infrastructure. It is hoped that a private partner would help in expanding the facilities and improving the passenger experience.
The Adani Group did not respond to an email query on the topic.
If the deal goes through, it could be Adani Group’s first overseas aviation foray. In Sri Lanka, it is already present in ports and the renewable energy sector. Last November, the group secured $553 million funding from the US International Development Finance Corporation for its west container terminal project in Colombo. The US backing was widely viewed as a move to curb Chinese influence in the region.
The Adani Group currently has a portfolio of eight airports (including the upcoming Navi Mumbai airport) in the country, serving 23 per cent of India’s passenger base.
“We are happy with tourism growth. In January, we received 208,000 tourists, and in the first seven days of February, we had 60,000 tourists. Our numbers are trending well, and forward bookings are looking great,” Fernando said. India is the largest source market for the country, accounting for 37 per cent of all arrivals in CY 2023. The Sri Lankan government is also targeting wealthy Indians to park their yachts at their marinas as a part of its marine tourism policy.
“We are targeting 2.3 million 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,” he remarked.
Fernando said new investments are being made in the hospitality sector, and the government is also framing a homestay policy. While ITC is launching its maiden international hotel in Colombo, international brands such as IHG and Ritz Carlton are also developing properties in Sri Lanka.
“The Sri Lankan economy has bounced back. Our treasury was zero when we came to power. Now we have reserves of $4.4 billion. We are a beautiful country with so much potential. If we have five proper years of financial discipline, Sri Lanka will grow. Our government believes in public-private partnerships, and that is the way forward. Indians have done it very well,” he added.