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Southern unrest shatters middle east tourist confidence

20 June 2014 04:32 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The recent unfortunate incidents that erupted in Aluthgama and Beruwala areas will have an adverse impact on the country’s tourism sector in the backdrop of Middle East being the fourth largest inbound tourist market for Sri Lanka, according to tourism industry stakeholders.

“We are already feeling the impact. During the last few days, there had been a number of cancellations by Middle Eastern tourists and new bookings have dried up,” an official of a leading travel sector operator told Mirror Business on grounds anonymity.

According to i mmediate past President of Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, Anura Lokuhetty, a large number of Middle Eastern tourists generally go on holidays during the period May-October.

“During May-October, you don’t see many European t ourists. But because of the Eid holidays and the extreme heat in their countries, many Middle Eastern tourists come to Sri Lanka. In fact, the industry more or less depends on Middle Eastern tourists this time of the year. So, the timing of these incidents is very bad,” Lokuhetty stated.

According to Sri Lanka Tourism statistics, 132, 169 t ourists from Middle East region visited Sri Lanka in 2012 and the number increased to 183, 097 in 2013. For the first five months of this year, 28, 708 Middle Eastern t ourists have visited t he country, a 19.6 percent increase yearon-year.

Meanwhile, leading Middle-East based media i nstitutions such as Al Jazeera and t he Saudi Gazette provided extensive media coverage to the incidents that took place in Aluthgama and Beruwela during the early part of this week.

“Generally during this time of the year, we get around 20 to 25 inquiries and bookings per month. But after these unfortunate incidents, the number has gone down to just one or two,” another leading tourism sector operator said.

According to him, the spending capacity of Middle Eastern tourists are much higher than the Europeans who have been visiting Sri Lanka during the last few years. The current THASL President Jayantissa Kehelepannala told Mirror Business that they are constantly in touch with Sri Lanka Tourism to minimize any impact coming out from the incidents in Aluthgama and Beruwela.

“At the moment I don’t see there’s much of an impact. But unfortunately I won’t be able to say the same if this continues,” he noted.
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