By Nishel Fernando
The recent mob attacks carried out targeting Muslims in several parts of Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of Easter Sunday attacks, could further hinder tourist arrivals to the island nation, dashing the industry’s hopes for a faster recovery.
“There’s severe repercussion for the industry. The arrivals have dropped by 85 percent and the ad hoc curfews are also not sending the correct signals to the world,” a tourism industry leader told Mirror Business.
The tourism industry stakeholders and authorities were expecting for a recovery in less than 13 months. However, the industry now remains pessimistic of that outlook after the recent developments.
According to The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, the islandwide hotel occupancy rates remain at around 15 percent, while the occupancy levels at Colombo hotels remain at 7 percent.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority earlier stated that the tourist arrivals had declined by 60 percent year-on-year (YoY) on average, in early May.
Expressing his frustration, another tourism industry stakeholder noted that there has been almost no progress in terms of getting the travel advisories lifted on
However, considering the recent developments, he stressed that the industry is unable to contemplate a way forward for Sri Lanka Tourism, until the country returns to normalcy.
After imposing an islandwide curfew for two consecutive nights, the country’s security forces yesterday announced the situation had been brought under control.
The Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators earlier proposed the government to conduct a security audit to build the confidence on the security situation of the country, which was also backed by several officials and ministers of the government.
However, according to industry sources, the government has dismissed the proposal for a security audit by an international independent security firm. Meanwhile, hoteliers, travel management companies (TMCs) and airlines yesterday decided to offer special promotional tour packages to tourists in several selected countries.
“Initially, we will offer these packages to selected markets, which include India, China, the Middle East, Russia, the United Kingdom, European Union and Australia,” a leading hotelier said.
The hoteliers, TMCs and Board of Airline Representatives in Sri Lanka are scheduled to meet next week to discuss the possible discount rates in order to finalise the package. In another development, the tourism industry stakeholders are scheduled to meet Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne and other top government officials this afternoon to finalise the financial relief package to the industry.
An industry representative said that some of the industry proposals, which were not earlier considered, would be taken up during the meeting. The industry has requested the government to extend the announced one-year moratorium to leasing firms as many have purchased vehicles on lease for tourism activities, who will now face difficulties in continuing with their lease payments.
The government expects to contain the decline in tourist arrivals to 30 percent this year, with a loss of US $ 1.5 billion in tourism earnings.
In April, the tourist arrivals declined by 7.5 percent YoY to 166,975, lifting the cumulative tourist arrivals to 0.9 million in the first four months of the year, recording a growth of 2.2 percent YoY.
UNWTO calls on global community to support Lankan tourism
Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) yesterday called on the global community to offer its unwavering support to Sri Lanka through tourism at this critical moment, noting that the hotels, beaches and other sites of interests are open as usual.
In a video message published at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Official Facebook page, UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili stated that Sri Lanka is one of the great tourism success stories and the tourism sector has been a beacon of hope and unity.
“I have had the privilege of seeing Sri Lanka emerge as one of the world’s great tourism success stories, the country offers a warm welcome to visitors from all over the world, regardless of nationality or creed.
In return, tourism has provided many Sri Lankans with secure jobs, helping whole communities grow and develop. Tourism has also been a major factor in the past decade of national reconciliation and contributed to bringing the people of Sri Lanka closer together.
Sri Lanka’s Tourism sector is a beacon of hope and unity. That’s why those who seek to divide us, target hotels and other places, where people come together. I offer my sincere condolences to those affected by the recent attacks, especially the families of the many victims.
I also call on the global community to offer its unwavering support to Sri Lanka at this critical moment. The country’s hotels, beaches and sites of interest are open as usual and ready to welcome you and by continuing to offer our support through tourism, we can help Sri Lanka recover and continue on its path towards peace and prosperity,” Pololikashvili said.
The UNWTO has also extended its immediate support for the recovery of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka and a series of discussions have taken place between the UNWTO Asia and the Pacific top officials and Sri Lanka Tourism Communications Team at the UNWTO headquarters in Madrid, Spain, following the Easter Sunday attacks, an SLTDA communiqué stated.