Terrorist attacks cancel 90 per cent of Sri Lanka’s business events

About 90 per cent of business events bookings in Sri Lanka have either been postponed, cancelled or put on hold for the months of May and June, according to the country’s stakeholders.

Sri Lankan tourism officials estimate cancellations could be as high as 50 per cent in coming months. The world’s largest wildlife conference – the 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – which was originally scheduled from May 23 to June 3 and would had drawn 4,000 delegates from some 190 countries is another major event that has postponed. The conference has been tentatively moved to September this year, but a final decision is awaited. The World HR Congress with the participation of 2,000 people from 40 countries is also confirmed for July 2020.

Finance minister Mangala Samaraweera said tourist arrivals are set to drop by 30 per cent and will result in a loss of US$1.5 billion in revenue this year owing to the attacks. Tourism is the country’s fastest growing revenue earner. Prior to the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was showing healthy growth. Flight bookings to Sri Lanka in 2019 were 3.4 per cent up compared to the same period in 2018. The tourism growth was led by Russia, Australia and China, which showed visitor increases of 45 per cent, 19 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. In the three days immediately after the bombings, cancellations of existing bookings surged to 86 per cent whilst new bookings fell away. Forward bookings for July and August are declining rapidly, leading to despair in the country’s tourism industry. India and China, Sri Lanka’s largest tourism source markets, as well as the UK and Canada, were among other countries urging their nationals to avoid non-essential travel to the country.

Sri Lankan tourism officials estimate cancellations could be as high as 50 per cent in coming months as the country limps towards normalcy. Officials added that the ambitious target of three million arrivals this year, against 2.3 million in 2018, would have to be sharply revised due to the crisis.