India, Sri Lanka’s largest tourism source market, has relaxed travel restrictions to the emerald isle as the country fights to recover from a dramatic reduction in arrival numbers in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings. India’s travel advisory has been updated from “non-essential travel” to “be careful and vigilant” when travelling to Sri Lanka.
The lifting of travel bans will slowly but surely rejuvenate inbound arrivals to the country. A hot destination for Indian incentive groups, it is expected that with much lower hotel rates on offer, this MICE segment will bounce back with gusto. Many hotels are offering discounts of up to 60 per cent to attract domestic travellers, particularly during weekends.
China – Sri Lanka’s second largest source market – made a similar move last week, too, prompting other countries like Germany, Switzerland and Sweden to follow suit, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said.
Switzerland has updated its travel advisory to “in Sri Lanka travellers must be very vigilant about their personal safety”, compared to the previous cautioning to “avoid unnecessary travel to Sri Lanka”. On the same day, Germany also updated its travel advisory from “unnecessary travel to Sri Lanka is still discouraged” to “despite the restoration of public order, travel to Sri Lanka will continue to be more cautious”.
Trevor Rajaratnam, Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka’s chief, revealed that the somewhat cautious lifting of travel advisories materialised after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met with the heads of 43 foreign diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka, urging them to lift the travel restrictions. The Sri Lankan military provided the diplomats with a security briefing, which reinforced that all of Sri the destination was safe for visitors. The UK, Sri Lanka’s third largest source market, is expected to lift its travel ban soon.
After the Easter Sunday bomb attacks which killed over 250 people including 40 tourists, nationals of many countries were advised to cancel all non-essential travel, causing occupancy rates at most hotels in the country to crash by 70 per cent.
Shiromal Cooray, chairperson of Jetwing Hotels, hoped that by July things will improve and the country will be able to recover by December. Cooray added: “The numbers won’t be the same during the winter season but still it would be an improvement. Our hotels are now averaging 30-35 per cent with many domestic clients during weekends. Indians have also started coming in.”