The Sunday Leader

Automated immigration system proposed for BIA

Stressing the need for better management of systems and processes at the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) President Harith Perera said Sri Lanka should move faster on adopting automated immigration systems.

“It is a widely held perception among all our industry stakeholders that BIA should be managed more efficiently minimizing delays and ‘waiting times’. Delays during the immigration process at the entry point is a major concern on the part of tourists arriving on the island. The best way to address this is to move faster on automation,” Perera said adding that many countries have already taken this path to expedite their immigration processes.

He added that ‘manual’ immigration systems are fast becoming obsolete in the global context.

“Without thinking of employing more people to man the immigration desks at our international airports, we must employ more machines. This should be complemented with a comprehensive border security system like in Australia and Canada. In some countries, even the Customs operations have been incorporated into their border management systems,” he added.

The SLAITO President said infrastructure developments of this sort will “immensely benefit” the country’s tourism industry which is on an ambitious three-year mission to double its revenue and employment generation.

“It is true that the tourism numbers are increasing. At the same time, there must be robust systems to ensure that ‘entry points’ do not become a bottleneck. We must soon come to the realization that the development of the tourism sector must go hand in hand with the development of entry points,” he warned adding that such issues, if unaddressed, will cripple the tourism industry in the long run.

He pointed out that the airport and aviation sector of Sri Lanka must adopt a strategic plan – a roadmap similar to the three-year Tourism Strategic Plan (TSP 2017-2020) endorsed by the Cabinet – that gives a clear vision to develop its infrastructure.

“In addition to automation of immigration, this must also address issues like poor traffic management at the arrival and departure terminals of the BIA. It must outline action items to develop the airport and aviation sector allowing it to meet the demands of our industries,” he explained. (Colombo Gazette)

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