Kandy violence leads tourists to cancel visits

9 March 2018 10:21 am - 25     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The religious and communal violence that erupted in Kandy could end up stymying the momentum built up in the tourism industry over the past three months, as signs are emerging that foreign tourists are cancelling their visits to Sri Lanka.

Over 80 tourists have cancelled their bookings made at one of the top three travel companies in Sri Lanka, which could possibly amount to a loss of 800 nights, Mirror Business learns.

This is despite the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) constantly issuing updates on the situation, and working with tourism stakeholders and the police to ensure the safety of tourists in the Central district.

Attempts to reach the top management of most of the leading travel companies and the two apex industry bodies—Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) and The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) were unsuccessful, as most were in attendance at ITB Berlin, the largest travel trade show in the world.

Back home, SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayake hit back strongly against individuals and groups inciting religious and ethnic tension.

“This is a wakeup call that shows the significance and the gravity of immature action on the part of those who contributed to this situation. The next time before someone throws a stone, or engages in any kind of road-rage, they should think ten times of the wide-ranging economic consequences of their actions,” he said.

Ratnayake said that the tourism industry is projected to be the leading foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka in two years, and the society should understand the importance of preserving a peaceful environment to sustain the growth of the industry.

“The loss of income affects not only the major hotels, but also the street seller, the tuk-tuk driver, the farmer and the restaurant worker,” he added.

The tourism industry was just getting back into gear after 2017 turned out to be a disappointment with a partial airport closure and a dengue epidemic, which resulted in nearly flat growth.

Relatively moderate growth last December was followed up by double-digit growth in January and February this year from key markets due to the winter season and the Chinese New Year, before the current tension in the major tourism hub of Kandy spurted.

Sparks flew with a roadside brawl over a truck driver thwarting a three-wheeler from overtaking, which resulted in the latter assaulting the truck driver who passed away from the wounds sustained.

The incident escalated into communal violence, with residents of the area fanning flames of religious hatred over the fact that the truck driver was Buddhist and the assailants were Muslim.

Another death of a Muslim resulted in the ensuing chaos.

Foreign media provided wide coverage on the developments, and the US, British, UAE and Australian governments issued travel advisories for their residents visiting Sri Lanka.

However, the national carrier SriLankan Airlines, which flies most of the tourists to Sri Lanka, issued a statement, which said that it has yet to see a massive cancellation trend.

“There could be some cancellations. We are closely monitoring the situation, but so far we are unaffected,” SriLankan said.

A source within the airline yesterday said that it would take a day or two before the airline could state whether cancellations have substantially increased due to the situation.

The unrest would not only result in cancellations by tourists who were set to visit Sri Lanka shortly, but would also discourage potential bookings for the coming months. (Chandeepa Wettasinghe)

  Comments - 25

  • Captain Cook Friday, 09 March 2018 10:45 AM

    Expect the Dollar to hit 200/-, Morons have nothing to lose.

    Duminda Friday, 09 March 2018 10:50 AM

    What had happened was over and a life long lessons. Cancellations of arrivals is some tourist could happen. Please don't use this as a major topic as nothing remains permanent in the world.

    Suda Friday, 09 March 2018 06:00 PM

    Ha..Ha.. this country needs more people like you to think it's OK to say what happens in this country. Frogs in the well give a damn about how other nations are developing. Ohoma yamu Duminda sir, niyamai

    Hubert Friday, 09 March 2018 10:56 AM

    Not surprise at all, being in the hospitality industry overseas it is very disappointing. it took few years after the war to gain the trust in the tourist industry, now Sri Lanka lost it again. Thanks to the people who provoked the situation.

    Laminate Friday, 09 March 2018 12:21 PM

    Well Said! Salute to you! Mr. Hubert!

    Thari Friday, 09 March 2018 10:57 AM

    Sri Lankan ???????? How many tourits they carry past 12 months, lol ask from Qatar and Emirates who bring 80% of European tourits to SL, look at past 3 months flight load factors, some relif this happen at later past of winter if not............

    Fiona Deeb Friday, 09 March 2018 11:00 AM

    Being in the tourism industry, my first thoughts, were of the negative impact this will have on tourism.It is time the country as a whole, wakes up to the hidden gem, Sri Lankan, and it's potential as a major player in tourism worldwide.It can easily compete with Thailand, and other major tourism destinations in the area, but only if the country, in every sector and department, works together for the good of this beautiful island that is, Sri Lanka!

    BuffaloaCitizen Friday, 09 March 2018 11:05 AM

    Most Sinhalese household parent adults denigrate and scorn minorities and their religions in the presence of their Children. When the children grow up, using words like thambiya, para demelu and words of profanity to describe other races

    sam Friday, 09 March 2018 02:20 PM

    Virtually all do!!

    Mark Friday, 09 March 2018 08:36 PM

    As if muslim, tamil families don't do the same thing. I went to an international school, and I saw how the minorities spread hatred and prejudice against sinhala children. Don't be a naive person.

    Care Friday, 09 March 2018 11:09 AM

    Since independence, it's apparent that successive governments have been incapable of governing Ceylon. The only progress they ever made was changing its name to Sri Lanka (or was it Sri Ganja!).Despite over 70 years of experience, successive governments have only succeeded in taking the nation deeper into the drains and will continue to do so since she's like an old dog which cannot be taught new lessons. Mark my words!The solution: Hand the country back to the English. Even Singapore can take over as she has a remarkable international track record of successfully governing a country with a similar ethnic make up.

    Mutual perinpan Friday, 09 March 2018 11:39 AM

    Until greater autonomy is given to the Tamil speaking North and East both cannot live as loving neighbours. However jealousy exists. Murugan

    REEZ Friday, 09 March 2018 02:19 PM

    Well said Care

    Dirk Friday, 09 March 2018 08:37 PM

    Stop pretending you can predict the future, as if the solution is devolution of power. In the United States this happens. This is humanity, accept it and stop behaving like you're better than anyone else.

    MRM Friday, 09 March 2018 04:35 PM

    800 room nights gone $$$$$ loss of revenue.

    Namrata Kaushik Friday, 09 March 2018 05:04 PM

    We r going to SriLanka on April.is it possible ?? Kindly tell us

    Tuan Friday, 09 March 2018 05:29 PM

    Stay at home and be safe.

    lal Friday, 09 March 2018 06:39 PM

    sri lanka is a safer

    lal Friday, 09 March 2018 06:42 PM

    its a lovely place

    Scooby Doo Friday, 09 March 2018 09:32 PM

    By April everything will be fine. You are Welcome! I am sure you ll have some nice time in this paradise.

    Gone Bananas Friday, 09 March 2018 09:48 PM

    Depends what you wear, kindly check with other sources too.

    Amarasiri Friday, 09 March 2018 06:06 PM

    Stay at home until the Para-Sinhala “Buddhists” become civilized.

    Andy Friday, 09 March 2018 06:52 PM

    Don't worry guys, I'm coming in April!

    ali Friday, 09 March 2018 08:40 PM

    SL is a beautiful country. But that does not mean it is the right place for tourism. Even without this racial tense situation, SL is far away from completing the other counterparts in the region due to its lacking standards in accommodation / food / transport / leisure providers and some of the extreme regulations set by the govt. Now the situation is fuelled by this violence. If one analyzes the repeat visitors, the real situation will come out. In few years, if we don't change, the fate is empty hotels or less than 20% Occ with only few UK's retired couples would be spending on vacation rentals.

    Banda Friday, 09 March 2018 09:29 PM

    It's not tourism but the 'central bank robbers' that ruined the economy.

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