After the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attack in Sri Lanka on the 21st of April 2019, countries across the world issued travel bans on Sri Lanka and the
tourism industry was heavily affected as a result. However, by the end of May 2019, most countries including Germany, Sweden China, India and Switzerland
lifted the travel ban, giving some hope for Sri Lanka tourism.
Approximately 3 weeks after the horrible attacks, Deborah and Victor from UK were a couple of foreigners amongst just a handful of others who decided to anyhow go ahead with their holiday in Sri Lanka. Due to the travel restrictions, most tourists had already cancelled their holiday plans to Sri Lanka for bookings all the way to December this year. This couple also were concerned about their decision to visit the country. Relatives and friends kept discouraging them to visit Sri Lanka. But what kept them motivated to continue with their much needed holiday is the fact that terror attacks are happening all over the world, and Sri Lanka was no different.
After their round tour of Sri Lanka, the couple have absolutely no regret regarding their decision. Deborah states “Sri Lanka is still an amazing country which deserves to be visited”, adding that there is additional security everywhere which is indeed comforting. The couple also expressed concern on how adversely the small businesses in the tourism industry have been affected as a result of the bombings – “we really feel for the people who have lost jobs as a result” said Deborah.
Sato Keiko – a tourist from Japan has made the maximum of this situation and turned his trip into a positive travel experience even with security concerns being a key. Most hotels and tourist attractions had remained pretty much empty as compared to Keiko’s previous travel experiences in Sri Lanka. He compared this
as his best visit because he managed to avail massive discounts at hotels and also got an opportunity to discover the Pearl of the Indian Ocean while it remained undisturbed by crowds of tourists. Destinations such as Kandy, Ella, Sigiriya and Yala offered experiencing natural beauty like never before.
Lonely Planet ranked Sri Lanka as the number one travel destination in 2019, encouraging the country’s tourism industry to work harder. However, with the attacks happening at a time when tourists arrivals had been at its peak, arrivals drastically dropped to just a handful, and as a result, the tourism industry has not been able to get back on its feet.
Sri Lanka experienced almost 4500 tourist arrivals on a daily basis prior to the Easter attacks. This figure dropped close to zero just after April 21st. With bookings up to December being canceled and hotels having to refund large amounts of money, small hotel owners have been forced to close down as operational
costs are high. Cost reduction methods are being employed at hotels in order to break even.
The Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) says authorities are doing their best to assure foreign governments that Sri Lanka is now safe for travel. He hopes that normalcy returns soon and bookings increase in the following months. With many countries now relaxing their travel advisories,
this picture seems to be brightening up.
Soon after the incidents, the SLTPB advised those in the industry to increase promotions and services for tourists. Moreover, there are international events
such as golf, basketball, surfing and a wildlife conference lined up in the coming months where tourist promotion will be taking place.
The Sri Lankan Government has also expressed their support to the tourism industry through several methods. The sector is expected to lose approximately USD 1.5 billion, and as a result, the Ministry of Finance has planned to provide financial relief to those significantly affected in the tourism industry. Despite these issues, the Minister of Finance assures Sri Lanka that the tourism industry will see normalcy within a short period.
At the same time, the few tourists who are still trickling into Sri Lanka are showing generous support by promoting Sri Lanka tourism to aid the tourism
industry. Many of them are posting pictures and kind words about a safe Sri Lanka on social media sites in an attempt to convince and assure others that
the island is safe for travel. Karan Waghmar from India also says that he will share his recent holiday experience in Sri Lanka on social media in a bid to
help the tourism industry. He claims that “Sri Lanka has a bright future in tourism” in hope that the information he shares will play a part in encouraging
others to visit Sri Lanka.