Cri­sis causes tourism blip just as Lanka im­age is boosted

Vis­i­tors calm and up­beat about their stay

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Shaadya Is­mail

The po­lit­i­cal cri­sis has prompted 10-15 per cent of ho­tel book­ings to be can­celled in some ar­eas but the Sri Lanka Tourism Pro­mo­tion Bureau in­sists the im­pact is min­i­mal, with hun­dreds fly­ing in over the past week.

“As of last week, four char­ter flights ar­rived in Sri Lanka car­ry­ing about 900 pas­sen­gers from Poland, UK, Switzer­land and Rus­sia, and the on­go­ing cricket match against Eng­land has also at­tracted the Barmy Army to the is­land. All of them will have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the tourism in­dus­try,” The bureau’s Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Re­la­tions, Dushan Wick­ra­ma­suriya said.

Most of the travel ad­vi­sories sim­ply re­quested tourists to be cau­tious about the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion and were not bans. Mr. Wick­ra­ma­suriya said Tourism Min­is­ter Was­an­tha Se­nanayake, lob­bied for the travel ad­vi­sories to be lifted while vis­it­ing the World Travel Mart ( WTM) in Lon­don from November 5-7.

Sri Lanka launched a new des­ti­na­tion brand iden­tity, “So Sri Lanka”, at the WTM, a ma­jor global travel in­dus­try event that at­tracts many thou­sands of travel agents, vis­i­tors and travel jour­nal­ists.

Mr. Wick­ra­ma­suriya said a group of eight lo­ca­tion man­agers from UK are ex­pected to visit Sri Lanka to pro­mote Sri Lanka as a film des­ti­na­tion, and added: “We are hop­ing that th­ese events will lead to a pos­i­tive out­come”.

The Sun­day Times found that tourists cur­rently in the coun­try are gen­er­ally at ease about the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion and en­joy­ing their holiday.

Teresa Feld­off, from Ger­many, said she had not ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing ad­verse. “Em­bassies can post things in a dra­matic way dur­ing such times and mostly it is the el­derly peo­ple who seek ad­vice from em­bassies be­fore trav­el­ling," she said.

Florence Mitchell, a UK na­tional, read the Bri­tish govern­ment travel cau­tion a week af­ter book­ing her tick­ets but de­cided to come here nev­er­the­less.

“I read that it’s a more Colom­bobased sit­u­a­tion and def­i­nitely some­thing to keep an eye on if it blows out of pro­por­tion,” she said.

Ms Mitchell said street protests were nor­mal in UK and not some­thing to be alarmed about, and be­cause she had not seen any­thing wor­ry­ing so far she wanted to travel to other parts of the coun­try.

Eloise Sut­ton, from Canada, said the ad­vi­sories stated the sit­u­a­tion was Colombo-based and that noth­ing was go­ing to spread to other parts any­time soon.

“A lot of Sri Lankan peo­ple asked us how our stay has been so far. We could sense the hos­til­ity peo­ple have to­wards pol­i­tics in the coun­try – we find such hos­til­ity quite nor­mal even back at home,” Ms Sut­ton said.

Dr. Chan­dra, from In­dia, had booked be­fore the po­lit­i­cal chaos erupted. “We were def­i­nitely con­cerned about what was hap­pen­ing and con­sulted our travel agency but

A lot of Sri Lankan peo­ple asked us how our stay has been so far. We could sense the hos­til­ity peo­ple have to­wards pol­i­tics in the coun­try – we find such hos­til­ity quite nor­mal even back at home

were told the sit­u­a­tion had not gone out of con­trol,” he said.

Sabine, from Ger­many, had been plan­ning to travel to Nicaragua but found that was too dan­ger­ous so had changed her mind and de­cided to come to Sri Lanka. “My hus­band and I didn’t look up the travel ad­vi­sories. We heard this is a beau­ti­ful coun­try and thought we should pay a visit,” she said.

De­spite the up­beat com­ments a lo­cal tour guide ob­served that while nor­mally there was a mix of tourists from around the world, “there were only a lot of In­di­ans and Chi­nese trav­el­ling around the coun­try dur­ing the past cou­ple of weeks” and the num­bers were down.

T.K.R. Chan­dana, who man­ages a tour­ing com­pany, Sri Lankan Trip Ad­vi­sor, found a num­ber of book­ings had been can­celled due to the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

“There were many in­quiries by con­cerned tourists about the pre­vail­ing sit­u­a­tion and I had to send them rec­om­men­da­tions from my other guests in or­der to re­as­sure them,” he said.

Mr. Chan­dana usu­ally gets about 10-15 tours in November and December and usu­ally re­ceives 10- 15 email in­quiries a month. So far this month, he had only re­ceived six emails.

Hote­liers said there had been book­ing can­cel­la­tions. The Pres­i­dent of the Cul­tural Tri­an­gle Hote­liers As­so­ci­a­tion, Saliya Dayananda, said 10-15 per cent of ho­tel book­ings in the re­gion had been can­celled, mostly group tours from Scan­di­na­vian and Euro­pean coun­tries.

“The coun­try must have po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity. When there's un­sta­bil­ity no­body wants to come to the coun­try,” he said, pre­dict­ing more can­cel­la­tions if the cri­sis in govern­ment con­tin­ued.

“Travel ad­vi­sories have def­i­nitely af­fected the tourism in­dus­try in­clud­ing most of the ho­tels,” he said.

Pres­i­dent of the Galle and Ham­ban­tota re­gion ho­tels Shamin­dra Fer­nando said a num­ber of on­line book­ings had been can­celled in the past cou­ple of days.

“It was just a cou­ple of weeks ago when Lonely Planet ranked our coun­try as the num­ber one des­ti­na­tion to travel to, and then this hap­pens,” he said. “The travel ad­vi­sories have had an im­pact on the tourism in­dus­try be­cause there have been a lot of queries made by con­cerned tourists.”

(See also Busi­ness Times Page 1)

There was a drop in tourist num­bers in Nuwara Eliya as seen in th­ese pic­tures taken yes­ter­day. Pix by Shel­ton Het­tiarachchi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Sri Lanka

© PressReader. All rights reserved.