Warm praise for Sri Lanka from ICAO Director | Daily News

Warm praise for Sri Lanka from ICAO Director

His bespoke white tunic was his gesture of oneness with an island people with whom he is clearly enthralled.

“It is the warmth of your welcome,” said, Boubacar Djibo, Director, Air Transport Bureau, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), who was in Sri Lanka for the annual ICAN conference taking place in from December 4-8. “You don’t feel like a foreigner here. From the time one boards your airline SriLankan, to when you land in the airport, to arriving at the hotel and even at business meetings and on the road in a tuk tuk, one feels a sense of welcome.”

ICAN is the ICAO’s premier annual international conference bringing together delegates from all over the world to one single meeting place for negotiations of air services agreements aiming at either updating existing traffic rights or creating new arrangements for market access among ICAO members.

Around 500 delegates from 75 states are participating at this year’s conference, lending host country Sri Lanka the rare opportunity to showcase its attractions to exclusive guests. Endorsing the island’s hospitality as a huge plus factor in leveraging tourism, Djibo said that Sri Lanka was also chosen as the venue of this year’s conference because the country has demonstrated a clear vision for aviation. “We were here last August (2016) for the regional conference of the directors general of civil aviation at the Hilton and at that time Sri Lanka was studying the prospects of global connectivity, of unlocking the benefits of its ports and airports and we’re seeing the results this year.”

“Sri Lanka has demonstrated how a state can benefit from aviation; this was clearly evident from the speeches of the Minister of Transport and the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau which endorsed a liberal aviation policy and increasing tourist arrivals from 2 million to 3 million.”

Recent hosts to the ICAN conference were tourism hot spots such as Jamaica, Antalya Bali and Durban. “We also chose Sri Lanka because the country is an important member of the UN, but also because the conference venue rotates from region to region and South Asia is strong in tourism.”

Countries which are strong in aviation can be strong in tourism and vice versa, Djibo said, because you need a clear aviation policy to encourage tourism and when a state has demonstrated that it welcomes foreigners, then other states are eager to reciprocate with traffic rights.

“Today’s consumer wants global connectivity,” Djibo said, citing the ever-growing e-commerce market as the perfect example of how important aviation is for trade and commerce. “Take Amazon or Ali Baba, for instance. It is the air transport industry which enables the shipping of flowers or diamonds. Now you even have drones delivering pharmaceuticals. Whatever the business, most often you would find that aviation is needed.”

Last year, aviation accounted for 1% in volume of international trade but 35% in value, Djibo said, adding that the air transport industry not only accounts for carriage of people, but contributes to international trade, the best outcome of which is unleashed when there is connectivity between a state’s ports and airports.

Underlining the need for connectivity in the global framework, he said connectivity is needed at domestic, regional and internationals. He lauded the sea plane facilitate which ferried him to on a visit to the Mattala international airport. “My first sea plane ride,” he said. It was impressive.”

Djibo applauded Sri Lanka for opening up its market to take advantage of an increasingly inter-connected globe.

“Everywhere traffic is growing,” he said. “Low cost carriers are plentiful and there is a new way of travelling; the passenger today wants cheap fares and doesn’t need much comforts. He wants shorter holidays several times a year.” He said therefore there is a need for more freedoms of air, codeshares and alliances among airlines. Djibo reiterated that aviation could have beneficial impact on all sectors creating value and creating jobs. He however, said that the UN’s SDG goals underscored all development and as such ICAO stood for sustainable initiatives, whether in tourism or international trade. 


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