Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Tourism stakeholde­rs welcome easing of rules on vaccinated tourists

„Say move will boost tourism and help country with much-needed foreign currency „Assure relaxation of health guidelines on vaccinated tourists won’t let public at risk „Call to re-establish online visa system that was in place before pandemic

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The tourism sector stakeholde­rs this week let out a sigh of relief as they welcomed the government’s move to relax Covid-19-related health guidelines to support the hard-hit industry.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), One Industry One Voice (OIOV) and The Hotels Associatio­n of Sri Lanka (THASL) shared with the media that the decision to tweak the entry requiremen­t for fully vaccinated travellers, with immediate effect, is a step in the right direction for the revival of the industry.

The Health Ministry announced Tuesday evening that fully vaccinated visitors, with a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to onboarding the aircraft, neither would be subjected to on-arrival PCR nor they are required to spend time in quarantine as required by the previous health guidelines.

The associatio­ns expressed confidence in the move paving the way to improve the current position of the local tourism sector in time for the upcoming winter season.

“This will no doubt help us to not only boost tourism but also bring in the much-needed foreign currency to the country. Tourism is the only industry that is capable of bringing in the muchneeded currency fast,” said SLAITO and OIOV in a joint statement to the media. The two associatio­ns said they are hopeful that the government is also looking at reinstatin­g the online visa system that was in place before the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is acknowledg­ed and rated to be one of the best in the Asian region.

Expressing similar sentiments, THASL pointed out that the measures, though relaxed, are in line with the emerging best practices and would not place the public at risk.

“We look forward to a year where things will start returning to normal and the world will come together again,” said THASL.

With nearly 80 percent of the population above 20 years of age being fully vaccinated, THASL believes that Sri Lanka is ready to once again open borders for vaccinated travellers and restart tourism.

Further, THASL highlighte­d that the strict quarantine measures, which tourists were required to follow in the last 18 months and the series of lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19, were “extremely hard-hitting” on the industry.

Hotels and nearly three million dependents of the industry have suffered immensely, due to the twin crises of the Easter Sunday attacks and COVID-19, it pointed out.

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