Lanka tourism industry begins to recover

Monday, 12 August 2019

COLOMBO, Aug 12: Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, badly hurt by Easter day bombings, is showing signs of gradual recovery, industry executives say, although a national election later this year is likely to weigh on holiday season arrivals.

The island nation’s tourism sector, one of the country’s top revenue streams, suffered a massive blow following April 21 Islamist militant bombings of churches and luxury hotels, which killed more than 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals, reports Reuters.

Tourist arrivals from Europe and Asia-Pacific, which together account for 90% of the total visitors to Sri Lanka, nearly halved in July from a year ago, according to the latest data from the country’s Tourism Development Authority.

SriLankan Airlines, the country’s lone carrier, will likely post a loss of as much as $160 million in the financial year to end-March 2020 as it lost business after the attacks, its chief executive officer told Reuters.

To be sure, Sri Lanka is trying to woo tourists back: it has offered a raft of discount deals, scrapped the fee on tourist visas for 48 nations, including China, India and the United Kingdom, and simplified the visa process for visitors from those countries.

Those moves have started to pay off, hospitality executives said.

“(We are) almost 50% booked for the winter and see a pickup in bookings,” said Sanjeewani Yogarajah, an executive at Hikkaduwa Beach Hotels in the southern coastal belt of Hikkaduwa, 112 km (69 miles) from the capital Colombo and popular for water sports.

“This time also we hope we will get around 90% (bookings) by winter,” she added.