May 16 (DailyFT) – Sri Lanka Tourism is seeing a silver lining as European and high-end Indian travellers have begun to inquire on forward bookings, while the Government is sorting out the COVID-19 protocol to welcome guests from July onwards.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has a devastating impact for Sri Lanka from both an economic and social point of view. However, we have seen this as an opportunity to reset Sri Lanka’s profile and the type of tourist we get to our country,” Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando said in an interview with Al-Jazeera.
“We are already seeing a lot of traction and getting inquiries for new bookings for July and August. Already travel agents from Germany and India are inquiring on reopening date of the airports. India is Sri Lanka’s largest tourism source market, followed by the UK, Germany and China,” she said. With low COVID-19 cases and casualties, Sri Lanka seems a preferred destination for high-end holidaymakers. “We have got many inquiries from India, particularly to fly in private jets,” she added.
Although there is no final decision taken on a definitive timeline for reopening, Fernando said Sri Lanka Tourism is hoping to welcome tourists from July. “At this moment we want longer-staying guests. We are looking at offering long stay visas for five years and multiple entries to make it customer-friendly,” she stressed. However, she noted that with very few countries have opened borders, long-haul tourists will take some time to comeback. Citing Sri Lanka will be a “perfect destination” post-COVID-19 for travellers, she said they will to go ahead with promotions and get the product mix right for post-COVID-19 plan.
Sri Lanka Tourism is also looking at areas which can be improved, mostly infrastructure to re-profile the country. Going forward, Fernando said they hope to change the visa process including e-visa and certified accommodation. “Our airport was never closed; it was open for both passengers and cargo.
We will look at online visa application with a PCR test done two weeks prior to the tour. Travellers will be subject to a two-week quarantine at four- or five-star hotel or at a Government facility free-of-charge. We will also introduce certified accommodation so that the guests would know,” she said.
She also said that around 59,000 Sri Lankans have requested to come back and have given first priority to those wanting to come back home with an increased protocol. “We have done a guideline for the accommodation sector as well as for the airport. We are working very closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Health Ministry. We have finalised guidelines and given to the industry for any fine-tuning to be made, which will be implemented from next Monday,” she added.