Tourism sector reopening day to be formally announced tomorrow

16 June 2020 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Authorities to consider possibility of reopening before previously announced Aug. 1
  • No decision yet on adding US $ 65 to visa fee, to cover PCR tests
  • Tourists coming to Sri Lanka to undergo at least 2 PCR tests 
  • They will be required to carry a COVID-19-free certificate issued by their govts. or reputed agency

By Nishel Fernando
The government plans to formally announce the reopening day of the country’s coronavirus-battered tourism sector for foreign tourists, following a key stakeholder meeting tomorrow, which is likely to be August 1 or an even 
earlier date. 


The key officials of the Tourism and Aviation Services Ministry, Health Ministry, Airport & Aviation Services Limited, SriLankan Airlines and representatives from other airlines, are expected to take part in this meeting, which would be chaired by Tourism and Aviation Services Minister Prasanna Ranatunga.


“Considering the inputs from the stakeholders, we are going to formally announce the opening of the airport for tourists, following the stakeholder meeting this Wednesday. It could be even before August 1, as we initially planned. However, we need to discuss this with the stakeholders first,” a top government official told Mirror Business.


During the meeting, the Tourism and Aviation Services Ministry also expects to take up several issues raised by the health authorities and tourism businesses. 


Tourists will be required to carry a COVID-19-free certificate issued either by their governments or a reputed agency, before 72 hours of boarding. However, the Tourism Ministry official remained cautious on the practicality issues in obtaining COVID-19-free certificates in certain countries such as the UK as well as the reliability of such certificates.


It was pointed out that COVID-19-free certificates could be obtained in black market in certain Asian countries, without going through any testing.

Therefore, an official from the Tourism and Aviation Services Ministry emphasised that the government would definitely carry out at least 2 PCR tests on all tourists, while the tourists who are staying longer than 10 days would be subjected to three PCR tests.


Upon arrival, all tourists will be tested and would have to remain either at the airport premises, until the test results arrive. Based on the initial test results, they will be allowed to move ahead with their travel plans; however, they will be again tested in five days and in 10 days based on their duration of stay.


The government is yet to reach a decision as to how they would recover the costs of these tests. Currently, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) is discussing a proposal with the Immigration and Emigration Department to add an extra US $ 65 fee to the visa fee, to recover the cost.


However, hoteliers and travel agents have raised concerns to this proposal, pointing out that it would discourage tourist arrivals to the island nation.


“We have to charge something. We can’t provide everything free of charge,” a Tourism and Aviation Services Ministry official said.


Further, the SLTDA and Immigration and Emigration Department are also discussing a proposal to extend a free-visa scheme to make Sri Lanka a more attractive destination for tourists which was expired recently. However, they are yet to reach a decision on this.


A free-visa scheme was granted for a one-year period, following the Easter Sunday terror attacks
 in 2019.


Meanwhile, it has also been decided to bar tourists from using the public transport. However, the officials noted that the decision could be reversed, if the COVID-19 pandemic slows down significantly.


The SLTDA is also planning to issue COVID-free certificates to tourist accommodations across the country, through health authorities. The tourists will be only allowed to stay in the establishments, which would be listed on the SLTDA website. 


According to the SLTDA sources, the authority plans to obtain the services of a reputed private sector firm to monitor how these establishments are complying with the issued health guidelines and regulations.


“They will provide frequent reports to the SLTDA as to how these establishments are adhering to the health guidelines and regulations. If any of these establishments are not adhering to the guidelines and regulations, the issued certificates can be cancelled,” the ministry official said. 


Tourist arrivals to the country declined by 44.1 percent year-on-year to 507,311, during the first four months of the year, with no tourist arrivals recorded for April.


Tourism industry analysts expect the country to attract below 100,000 tourists for the remainder of the year, when the country reopens for tourism.

 

 

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