Sri Lanka Nuwara Eliya Adobestock Kennymax

Industry groups say Sri Lanka is safe and ready for peak tourist season

The clear message at the Sri Lanka Revival event, held last night in London, is that Sri Lanka is safe, open for business and ready to welcome new and repeat tourism business.

Hosted by The Tourism Alliance of Sri Lanka, AITO, Experience Travel Group and Travel Gallery, the panel of speakers said that following the Easter terror attacks, in which 290 people were killed, it was important to provide up-to-date information for travellers and the travel industry and to promote Sri Lanka as a safe and welcoming destination. Malik Fernando, from Resplendent Ceylon, speaking on behalf of the Tourism Alliance, said the organisation was formed by concerned private sector stakeholders to meet these goals and work with the government. The panel praised the FCO for lifting the travel restriction on Sri Lanka.

Her Excellency Manisha Gunasekera, Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, told the event that soon after the attacks, "normalcy prevailed", the suspects were quickly apprehended and security measures were stepped up, including the Sri Lankan government offering assistance to tourism businesses to upgrade security, such as installing X-ray machines.

In the wake of the attacks, Sri Lankan hotels and tour operators reported cancellations and a drop in bookings but Mr Fernando said that the Indian Ocean island was as safe the day after the attacks as it was the weekend before Easter and urges the travel industry to pass this message on to customers. He added that "fake news" led to the wider public, outside the travel industry, becoming misinformed about the Sri Lankan security situation. There was a spike in Google searches such as "Is Sri Lanka safe?" but Mr Fernando was quick to point out that the country's 2 million Muslims are a "peaceful, moderate community ... and the terrorists do not represent Sri Lanka." He described the terrorists has "a band of idiots who wanted to go to Sri Lanka to a caliphate that does not exist anymore." 

Currently, there are discounted deals available for many Sri Lankan holidays, which the panel agreed will help agents book more holidays in the short term, but in the long term, the strategy is to promote the destination as safe, beautiful, welcoming and worth spending money on in terms of bookings – and by supporting local businesses when in the country. The panel pointed out that, particularly at the luxury end of the market, Sri Lanka has always represented great value for holidaymakers.

As well as promoting the popular tourist destinations, such as Colombo and Galle, Hiran Cooney, representing Jetwing Group, highlighted the attractions of the less-visited east coast of the country as opportunities for selling more holidays.

Speaking to Travel Bulletin at the event, Mr Fernano said that while bookings for the next few months are picking up, it is important for agents to promote Sri Lanka in the high season, especially as this is the time of year where grassroots businesses which rely on tourism make the majority of their income for the year.


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