Over 2,800 Russian-Ukraine region visitors expected | Sunday Observer
Under pilot project

Over 2,800 Russian-Ukraine region visitors expected

3 January, 2021

Around 2,800 tourists from the Russia-Ukraine region are due to visit Sri Lanka under the pilot tourism project launched on December 28 to re-open airports and resume operations of the tourism industry, a top official of the Ministry of Tourism said on Friday.

According to the official tourists from the region and other markets have expressed keen interest in visiting Sri Lanka as soon as the situation improves and normalization has been restored in the country. “The Ukrainian travellers are pleased with the program of the Government to ensure the safety of visitors. All health guidelines and precautionary measures have been taken to ensure there is no spread of the  pandemic in the country,” Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga said.

The first group from Ukraine arrived on December 28 following a nine-month lapse that marked the lowest number of arrivals in recent times The Ukrainian travellers were extended a warm welcome and have been housed in identified hotels under strict health guidelines.

As plans are afoot to open airports by the end of this month following the end of the pilot project on January 19, concerns have been expressed on how safe it would be to open the country for visitors from countries that still have a large number of Covid-19 cases and a high death rate.

“All visitors will need to undergo PCR tests 72-hours prior to arrival and after arrival. Sri Lankans connected to the tour cannot visit their homes and are required to be quarantined for 14 days after which they would have to do a PCR test,” the minister said.

The six Ukrainians who tested positive have been sent to the Kotelawala Defence University Hospital. After the completion of the quarantine they would be subjected to a PCR test before leaving the country.

Meanwhile the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) issuing a  statement last week  welcomed the arrival of the first group of tourists  following the closure of airports in March last year to prevent the spread of the killer-virus. The Association was optimistic that the tourism industry would bounce back soon and pledged its support to revive the industry.  The Ukrainian travellers arrived at the Mattala airport via Sharjah on a SkyUp Airlines Boeing 737. Sri Lanka Tourism has been aiming at around 2.5 million visitors since 2013 but has failed to reach the goal due to lack of marketing and promotional activities.

The number of arrivals plummeted badly in 2019 due to the Easter Sunday attacks ending the year with 2.19 million visitors. Hope for a better year in 2020 was shattered by the global pandemic that brought global travel to a standstill.

The number of  arrivals up to March last year was 500,000.The SME sector of the industry took a severe hit by the Easter attacks and the pandemic double whammy.Several relief measures had been proposed through moratoriums and lowering interest rates. However most SMEs of the tourism industry  have reached a point of no return due to the mounting debts and zero occupancy since March last year.