There is a lot of talk about opening up the treasures of Sri Lanka’s neglected east coast (such as Arugam bay/Pottuvil) to the wider world. However one of the biggest obstacles to such a process it getting there. Currently Arugam bay/Pottuvil is a 8 hour drive from Colombo – which doesn’t compare well with the 10-11 hour flying time from Colombo to London. The combination of regular domestic air services to Ampara airport and local entrepreneurs can remove this major logistical hurdle to developing this area.
Ampara airport (Air Force Base) is not exactly new door to Arugam bay. Yet it is the closest runway accessible via the existing road network. Current transport services such as the AbaY Taxi – which currently specialises in travel from Colombo airport to Arugam Bay – are well placed to make the air bridge viable.
The end of the war has highlighted the pent up demand for domestic aviation services in Sri Lanka. Even the Sri Lanka Air Force has got into the domestic aviation market to fill the demand for flights to Jaffna. Currently it seems that the supply constricted by war time restrictions, and is slow to meet the demand. Jaffna understandably remains the political and economically viable priority. Currently the only arial access to Arugam bay seems to be charters via Deccan Aviation (Lanka) which is not for every pocket.
Hopefully, the entry of further actors into Sri Lanka’s domestic aviation market will make flight affordable, and additional destinations more viable. Arugam bay’s tourism potential, and Ampara airport seems to offers a ready made market for those willing to take the first steps. As with most things in the process will not be so straight forward. Easier access to the wider world will have consequences to the way of life in Arugam bay. Start typing “arugam bay” into google and you’ll notice that among the most popular search term prompts are “arugam bay real estate” and “arugam bay land”. Yet the consequences of peace and the inevitable changes must be faced. Ideally with a calm mind and healthy optimism. On the positive side, the basic ingredients of making getting to Arugam Bay and Pottuvil easier and financially viable already exist.