Recently there has been a communal conflict in Sri Lanka which has stirred the thoughts of travelers and got them re-directing their travel plans elsewhere. And those who are already in the country are reluctant to visit sacred Buddhist sites, peaceful beaches and Ceylon tea moments. However, with careful planning and heightened awareness levels, dream trips to the beautiful Southeast Asia island nation – Sri Lanka is still possible.
On Wednesday 7th March 2018, some tension arose between the Sinhalese and Muslim communities in Kandy (Central Province), following which the Sri Lankan government announced a countrywide state of emergency. Most of the unrest is focused in Kandy and the neighboring towns but no violence had spread to other parts of the country. With Kandy being the cultural hub of the country and a major tourist attraction, international security experts and tour operators are continuously monitoring the situation.
According to the head of information at International SOS, there is a decline in the level of unrest – which is a risk assessment for business travelers.
In response to this situation, the U.S. State Department alerted Americans regarding curfews in Kandy and informed them to avoid areas of unrest, be cautious at large gatherings, maintain a low profile, and follow local media for updates.
International tour operators such as Audley Travel from Boston mentioned that their guests in Sri Lanka are travelling successfully and do not plan to curtail their trip. Other international industry leaders such as Intrepid Travel and On the Go Tours also have not canceled any upcoming tours and neither have they made any changes to itineraries. Popular tourist destinations such as Colombo – the commercial capital, Anuradhapura – the ancient city, and the beaches of the southern, western and eastern coasts remain safe. Tour companies are consistently on the lookout and are tracking developments through in-country experts as well as official government organizations. These experts state that the situation is ‘looking really positive’.
The government of Sri Lanka has lifted the curfew in Kandy so it is safe to move about. At the same time, it is best for travelers to follow all enforced rules during the 10 day state of emergency period. For best safety measures in Kandy, travelers are advised to go directly to their destination without choosing any detours. Hotel shuttles should be used for transportation. Hotels will not transport people and put their business at risk unless it is completely safe. Hence by using hotel shuttles, you are making sure to hire a secured escort. Also, if you have hired private transport for your entire Sri Lanka round tour, don’t worry too much because most local drivers are well experienced in handling heated environments throughout the country.
As further safety measures, travelers are advised to purchase flexible air tickets and choose accommodation that is away from the affected strife areas. Most importantly, travelers should stay informed and understand how the situation changes. Regularly keep a check on local news sources and strictly do not rely on social media because unofficial sources tend to post inflated reports.