Sri Lanka is open and warmly welcomes visitors | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka is open and warmly welcomes visitors

28 February, 2021

At present there are three million people who are dependent on the tourism Industry in this country. Therefore, the Chamber of Tourism and Industry is seeking funding assistance.

Sri Lanka warmly welcomes visitors again to experience the paradise island. All travellers must apply for a visa online and download the Visit Sri Lanka app. A three-month visa will be then issued.

Anyone coming from abroad must stay in a government-approved Level 1 hotel for upto 14days of their stay. There are over 54 tourist hotels islandwide that have been certified and awarded the ‘Safe & Secure’ Certificate. Guests can enjoy the hotel facilities such as pools, gyms, salons and restaurants.

Visitors have the freedom to visit selected 17 places declared as Bio bubble areas to travel within the country enjoying several tourism sites and attractions and stay at these secure Level 1 hotels during their initial two-week stay while still observing safety protocols.

When visitors complete their two-weeks of semi-quarantine, they will be able to move more freely within Sri Lanka.

In addition to paying for flights and accommodation, travelers are responsible for the cost of health insurance ($12 US), visa fees Asian ($25) other countries ($35) and up to three PCR tests in-country ($40 each).

We kindly request all tourists and visitors to follow all Health Guidelines continuously until your trip is over.

Tourism sectors affected due to Covid-19:

Hoteliers, Transport companies and individual vehicles owners, Tour operators / Travel agents, Tourism sector employees, Tourist drivers and jeep safari drivers, Tour guides, Restaurants, guest houses and home stay operators, Eco tourism lagoon safari service providers, Tourist vendors, Tourism promotion magazine publisher, Water sports operators (surfing, diving, kite surfing), Cottage industry manufacturers, Handy craft sellers and producers, Hotel suppliers, Ayurvedic spa centers operators, Domestic airline companies, Gem industry.

Challenges 

1. Many unregulated tourist business operate in the country which is seen as a risk to safety and reputation of the tourism industry

2. Perception exists that Sri Lanka is a country that is still at war and therefore unsafe 

3. Global Covid -19 pandemic situation faced by the country today. 

4. Economic disparity between areas particularly those inaccessible during the civil war  

5. Lack of established linkage (road/ rail network) between north east, north western and south west    

6.  International direct flights need to be increased.

7. A proper destination marketing effort needs to be done in major tourist market 

8. Government to take stern action to prevent drugs in the country. 

9. Combating sexual child abuse and harassment to tourists by establishing law enforcement (tourist police) units in tourism areas.   

10. Empowerment of women by providing employment for them in the tourism industry

Registered accommodation in Sri Lanka (up to December 31,  2019)   

Number of establishments - 2,620

Number of rooms -  40,365 

In addition, 407 hotel projects granted approval for construction of    20,951 rooms

Total investment value - 3,781.5 million USD

There are approximately 40, 000 rooms not registered with SLTD unclassified including informal sector.

Five star hotels - 26, Four  star hotels - 24, Three stars hotels - 26, Two stars hotels    - 41, One star    - 38, Guest houses - 1,050, Heritage bungalows - 4, Heritage homes - 3, Home stays    - 548, Hostel - 10, Rented apartments     - 70, Rented homes - 5, Tourist hotels (unclassified) – 233.

Tourist arrivals:

During the colonial period, the majority of tourists arrived in Ceylon from the UK. Tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka was around 18,968 in 1966. Planned tourism started in Sri Lanka with the setting up of The Ceylon Tourist Board in 1966.

In 2018, tourism became third largest foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka.

The top ten tourism-generating markets for Sri Lanka (2019 figures):

India - 355,002, UK - 198,776, China - 167,863, German - 134,899, Australia - 92,674, France - 87,623, Russian Federation  - 86,549, United States - 68,832, The Maldives - 60,278, Canada - 48,729.

International airline operations (2019): 

Thirty-six international airlines operate in Sri Lanka  including Sri Lankan Airlines.

Fourteen 14 domestic airports (Ratmalana Airport to be upgraded to an international airport) 

Total employment, direct and indirect in 2018 was estimated at 500,000.

Average duration of a tourist’s stay: European - 10-14 days; Middle Easten: 7-9 days; Asian: 6-7 days.

Occupancy rate: 2018 - 71.35 -79.19. 2019 - 54.9 -58.7. Tourist spending is at an average of US$ 167-177 per day

Issues to be considered:

Tourist hotels around the island are the biggest hit due to the outbreak. A moratorium on loan and vehicle leasing payments was given to the Tourism sector for one year. However, since there has not been any improvement in the industry it is suggested that the moratorium be extended for a further period of one year. Although there was relief provided via in capital payments the banks continue to charge interest payments. Tourism Industry has been paying an interest rate from 9% to 15% and has been requested from the authorities to totally remove interest payments or to reduce interest rates to 4%

A special loan scheme at 4% interest needs to be introduced for SMEs engaged in the tourism industry.  

Setup a Covid-19 hardship fund to assist tourist service providers who have lost their livelihood income 

Tour Guides and Tourist Drivers were provided a one time a relief package i.e. a payment of Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 15,000 respectively. However since there has been no tourist business taking place and we request that the same payment be continued for another six months until the tourism industry resumes operations

Consideration should be offered to assist the indirect suppliers of the travel Industry such as suppliers to hotels, those engaged in eco-tourism, adventure tourism, manufacturers of handicrafts etc.

We also suggest the government introduce a pension scheme for tourist service providers and employees in the tourism sector. All three international airports must be reopened with necessary health guidelines. As tourist hotels around the island are the biggest hit due to the outbreak, a special loan scheme at 4% interest needs to be introduced for SMEs engaged in the tourism industry.

Foreign Investors who are interested tourism investment in Sri Lanka should be granted attractive tax concessions and duty concessions. Employees in the tourism sector to be insured against all sickness including pandemics such as  current Covid-19.

Providing of beach cleaning equipment to local authorities in tourism areas. Providing of a fully equipped fire brigade to local authorities in tourism areas Request all booking engine commissions to reduce fees until the industry picks up Sri Lanka tourism development authority must established regional branch in the tourist areas.

The writer is the President Chamber of Tourism Industry, Sri Lanka

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