Colombo, April 2 (newsin.asia): Tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka, which had been recovering from the Easter Sunday blasts of 2019 and the pandemic of 2020-21, is facing a new threat from April 1 this year. The declaration of a Public Emergency by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the evening of April 1 because of a violent incident near his private residence in Mirihana outside Colombo on Thursday, is expected to hit tourism again below the belt.
Though the Emergency is meant to maintain peace and public services, it tends to discourage tourism as tourists do not want to come to an embattled land awash with policemen and army troops and a pervasively tense atmosphere.
Tourist arrivals prior to the Easter Sunday simultaneous blasts in August 2019 and the pandemic and the lockdowns which followed in 2020 and 2021, were 2.3 million. But these came down to 175, 409 in the first two months of 2022. The latter was touted as a harbinger of normalcy.
But tourism operators in Sri Lanka are viewing the declaration of Emergency as a big blow. It will have a telling psychological impact on travelers. Tourism operators regret that the declaration of Emergency should be made so close to the Ukrainian crisis which had shut further arrivals from Russia and Eastern Europe.
“Flights to and from Russia have been stopped because of the dollar payment problem. Bookings on Emirates can be done only from the Sri Lankan end and not the other way round,” said a Colombo-based travel agent.
“And because of the severe fuel shortage in Sri Lanka, short-haul flights cannot refuel in Colombo. And that too will hit arrivals,” the agent added.
Although there have been no cancellations so far, cancellations are expected in the next few days, further hitting an already battered industry.
Hotels and resorts, both luxury and budget, were beginning to attract Indians and Europeans in the first months of 2022. But now there is a question mark over their arrivals, badly affecting the hospitality sector.
Up till now, Russia has been the leading source market for Sri Lanka, followed by India, Britain, Ukraine Germany, France and Poland. But the last five are now affected by the European war.
The tourism sector contributed to 4.3% of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product and employed 402,607 people in 2019. The country has lost an estimated 10 billion U.S. dollars in tourism revenue over the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Xinhua.