He was accompanied by State Minister for Aviation and Development of Export Zones D.V. Chanaka. The Ministers were received at the airport by Sri Lanka High Commissioner Kananathan and a group of Sri Lankan entrepreneurs based in Kenya. Rajapaksa jointly with the Kenyan Minister for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala inaugurated the Passenger Service Agent’s office of the Sri Lankan Airlines in Nairobi on Saturday.
Addressing guests, Rajapaksa said that direct air connectivity was crucial to unlocking a country’s economic growth potential, to enable it to attract trade, investment, tourism and people to people contact. He expressed hope that the air connectivity and the Passenger Service Agent’s office of Sri Lankan Airlines in Nairobi will facilitate the efforts being taken by High Commissioner Kananathan to promote bilateral economic relations between the two countries.
Balala proposed in his address that Kenya and Sri Lanka should enter into a bilateral arrangement to formalise capacity building and other exchange programmes in tourism and wildlife management. While welcoming the Ministers and guests High Commissioner Kananathan said that tourism was one of the primary industries for both Sri Lanka and Kenya and emphasised the need to cooperate for mutual benefit notwithstanding that the two countries are diverse in nature, culture and character yet unique in their geographic location. The High Commissioner further said that the air connectivity was without any exaggeration a turning point in bilateral relations with Kenya and Africa as Sri Lanka sought to thrive into the future in partnership with Africa by building closer ties, and by growing together while being in two continents.
During the inauguration programme the local tourism brands namely “Rediscovering the Magical Kenya” and “Rediscovering Fascinating Sri Lanka” were launched by the Ministers of Kenya and Sri Lanka as well as the High Commissioner. It was recognised that the local brands will be used to promote bilateral tourism to serve each other with the taste of uniqueness that nature had lavishly bestowed on the two countries.
Further, at the ceremony, two Kenyan elephants have given the Sri Lankan names “Tikiri” and “Mal”. The Ministers and the High Commissioner wished the Managing Director of the Passenger Service Agent Office Ruwan Fernando good luck and thanked him for his interest to promote Sri Lankan Airlines in Kenya.
Minister Rajapaksa also met with Minister for Sports, Heritage and Culture of Kenya Dr Amina Mohamed at the Ministry of Sports, Heritage and Culture. The Ministers have exchanged views on the status of policies and strategies on developing sports in their respective countries and decided to conclude a bilateral protocol for training facilities for long-distance runners and cricketers, as required.