We need to support Sri Lanka in this hour of crisis and the devastation of a carefully nurtured tourism industry that rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the 30-year civil war that ended only a decade ago. The last 10 years of hard work, infrastructure development and good marketing have catapulted Sri Lanka into an attractive meeting and incentive travel destination in Asia. Sri Lanka has fought hard and earned the respect of the global tourism industry by holding their own against all odds. And that earns my respect and support.
The aftermath of the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka has been debilitating for the industry. Forty tourists died in the blasts, including foreign nationals from Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK and the US.
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.
The only immediate measure that Sri Lanka can take to reassure the world community is to root out the remaining suspected terrorists who are still embedded in the country, neutralise them completely along with their cache of weapons, expose the cleansing on global media and declare the country a safe zone. Thereafter, the country must exhibit the preventive security measures taken to effect safety as per global standards. The airports, hotels, meeting venues, public monuments and museums, galleries must demonstrate unequivocally their readiness to implement the strictest of checks and controls. This will surely bring tourists and MICE groups back to what is one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly destinations in Asia and perhaps the world.
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