What do Chinese tourists think? | Sunday Observer
Travelling to Sri Lanka under new normalcy:

What do Chinese tourists think?

13 September, 2020

Sri Lanka is gradually entering ‘new normalcy’ in the post-Covid-19 period. Everybody now talks about border re-opening and tourism recovery. When will tourists come back? How will they choose the destination? What factors will influence their travelling plan? And more specifically: when will Chinese tourists come back?

As a blogger who shares the island’s story in Chinese and with more than one million followers in China, almost every day I get messages asking, “When can I go to Sri Lanka?”

Who are these people who want to come to Sri Lanka?

More than half of these messages are from Chinese business travellers, or people who need to work in Sri Lanka. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected their work and plans. The others are travellers who have made plans, or have booked air tickets long ago. A few are Chinese investors who had planned to visit Sri Lanka before the Covid-19. They now wish to re-start their plans as Covid-19 is being controlled.

No matter whether business travellers or tourists, I have seen positive signs on the Chinese side. Although interests persist, under the circumstances, the doors on both sides have not been opened for tourism or personnel visits. The results depend on the policies: when and how will borders be opened?

Let’s first consider the angle of the tourists. Tourists may consider several factors. As a frequent traveller and an islander who has been living in Sri Lanka for many years, I will take myself as an example. I will consider the following

1. Is it safe?

Who travels to this country? Are there any tourists from countries with severe epidemics who I may meet on the way? Are the hotels safe and do they observe health regulations? In this country is contactless travel practical?What if I get Covid-19 while travelling?

2. Difficulties of travelling

Is it easy to apply for a visa? Is 14 days quarantine required for entry? Are there measures or policies for quarantine mutual recognition or immunity passports? If travel to this county needs 14 days or even 28 days quarantine, which means around one month in isolation, I will certainly give up the idea of travelling.

Some countries such as, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, where the recorded number of Covid-19 infections is low, have created the Baltic Travel Bubble that allows one another’s citizens to travel without the need for quarantine. I think that can work between Sri Lanka and China too, which will definitely help tourists to come back.

3. Information from the internet

While we wait for bans to be lifted and borders to re-open, many people are turning to digital travel. Virtual travel experiences offer escapism, inspire wanderlust and allow a travel and tourism industry that has crumbled to look towards a better future.

Therefore, we should not make our existence or voice vanish into thin air during the Covid-19. On the contrary, we need more exposure to target the market and talk about the hospitality of the people in our beautiful and unique island in the Indian Ocean, which brings us tranquility, inner peace and wisdom of Buddhism.

I heard that the formulation of specific national policies are proceeding, but will involve discussion and approval of many departments. However, even when Covid-19 in Sri Lanka and China is under control, the worldwide epidemic situation is changing rapidly. Many countries that recently eased social bans have reported a rebound of Covid-19. Reopening the country may result in an increased risk of imported cases and trigger a new round of infection. Hence, the reopening of the airport has been repeatedly delayed and discussed on both sides, which is understandable considering the limited medical resources available.

As regards the situation in other countries, it is generally considered to allow investment, business travellers and professionals to enter first, followed by overseas students, and finally tourists. Tourists are also being categorised. Thailand is a common benchmark country for tourism policy formulation in Southeast Asia and South Asia.

Thailand’s current considerations are: “Allow small tour groups to enter first, and temporarily discourage free travel. At the same time, it must be based on the Covid-19 control status of each country and local opinion. The status of tourism operators and airlines are also factors to determine which areas will be open to tourists.”

It’s difficult to predict how long it would take for the full recovery of tourism. Travel will be conducted according to the new standards to ensure that health and safety is maintained. We can get excited about travel in the not-too-distant future, but we need to be fully prepared.