Tourism industry to recommence in January | Sunday Observer

Tourism industry to recommence in January

13 December, 2020

Sri Lanka will open its borders to foreign tourists in keeping with health guidelines in January, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said. He said the health authorities are meeting tomorrow to discuss how tourists can be brought into the country.

“Tourists won’t be willing to be quarantined for 14 days. We have to think of other ways to ensure that their tours proceed as planned. The health authorities will let us know the protocols and we will start welcoming tourists as soon as we get these issues sorted out,” the Minister said. He said that repatriation of migrant workers will also continue.

Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner for the country. In 2018, the country earned USD 4.38 billion from the industry and fell short with revenue of USD 3.61 billion in 2019 as a result of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.

There have been no tourist arrivals to the country since the Government closed all borders for international tourists in a measure to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 since March this year.

Sri Lanka Tourism issued health protocols to ensure the safety of the people once the industry recommences.

Entry protocols and preparedness

Sri Lanka Tourism was one of the first in Asia to prepare and issue a comprehensive Covid-19 health protocol for the industry which was developed and issued with the support of the Health Ministry, the UN World Health Organization and the input of the industry.

Over 92 establishments; accommodation providers and tour operators have been awarded the safe and secure certification to service and accommodate international tourist for the first 14 days.

Sri Lanka received the Safe Travel Stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council, reflective of the sound protocol implemented by Sri Lanka Tourism. This includes the auditing firm KPMG inspecting the ‘Safe and Secure Certification’ that provides Global Travellers with the comfort and confidence that Sri Lanka has taken adequate steps to ensure safety.

The audits are conducted free for the first-time certification, the costs of which are borne by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). Auditing and certification are stringent as they should be to ensure high health and safety standards, in line with other countries in the region.

Certification includes a QR code that will permit guests to provide feedback on the health and safety protocols followed by their hotel and service provider, which will enable continuous assessment, besides inspection by the PHIs and regional health officers.

Several training sessions were conducted on pandemic preparedness for SMEs, designed and rolled out together with S4IG Australia and Asian Development Bank. Covid-19 guideline training was conducted partnering with Market Development Facility (MDF) of Australia and the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL).

Sri Lanka Tourism has called upon all stakeholder associations to arrange similar training programs for their members.

Airport opening protocol

A detailed airport opening protocol has been developed in the past several months and presented to the Health Minister. Another committee has been appointed to review the protocol, which may delay the airport opening.

“This is a global health pandemic. We are guided by the Health Officials. Diluting the health protocols would compromise the safety of international travellers and citizens when the airports reopen. Unless the HealthMinistry gives us the approval to relax the health and safety protocols, we are unable to do so,” Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando said.

“We will continue to support our stakeholders to ensure the safety of all,” Fernando said.

‘Safe and Secure’ certification

This guideline for ‘Safe and Secure’ certification is available on the SLTDA website and can be accessed through

The guideline provides direction to all tourism service providers on how to carry out their operations in a responsible manner adhering to the health protocols. While every tourism service provider is expected to familiarise with the overall guideline contents, chapter 4 is specifically dedicated to the accommodation service sector and chapters 3 and 6 provide guidance to travel agents, tour operators and tour crews. Chapter 5 is for other tourist facilities and services, including stand-alone restaurants, cafes, theatres, supermarkets and shopping malls, while chapter 7 is for attraction sites and activity places.

Any SLTDA registered tourism service provider from accommodations, travel agents, tour operators, tours crews (tour guides and chauffeurs) or other services can apply for ‘Safe and Secure’ certification, if they are ready to be audited by KPMG.

The application is available online and can be accessed through Based on the applied date, the audit schedules will be prepared by the SLTDA and forwarded to KPMG for implementation.

For the accommodation sector, travel agents/tour operators and stand-alone facilities, the assessments will include completing of KPMG’s initial checklist/questionnaire by the service provider, which will be followed by the on-site audit at a pre-arranged date.

Assessment of the tour crews, including tour guides and chauffeurs are based on an examination conducted by KPMG to check the level of overall knowledge and awareness on the guideline contents with special attention to details in chapters 3 and 6 of the guideline.