Tourism players remain confident Sri Lanka will bounce back after the devastating Easter terror attacks, which have taken a significant toll on travel confidence and demand to the country.
Speaking during a press conference at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Kishu Gomes, chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, remained positive that the country’s tourism industry can quickly recover in the wake of the attacks, which killed more than 250 people.
Gomes predicted international visitors to Colombo will fall by 50 per cent in the next two months, with outlying areas seeing a 30 per cent drop.
He added the annual target of attracting 2.5 million visitors in 2019 is expected to tumble to two million.
Rebuilding the tourism sector is now a key priority for Sri Lanka Tourism, with the authorities currently in the midst of selecting global PR and marketing agencies to help with the recovery strategy, said Gomes.
Nearly half a million Sri Lankan families are dependent on tourism for their daily living, so the impact on the economy must be mitigated, he stressed.
“We are working to regain the confidence of global travelers and operators by demonstrating that Sri Lanka’s response to the incident is effective while reassuring future tourists that all appropriate steps are being taken by the Sri Lanka Government to prevent any future incidents and ensure the continued safety and security tourists within the country,” added Gomes.
Per Storm, product manager at Nyhavn Rejser in Denmark, estimates it will take at least six months for bookings to pick back up. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the company had contacted all clients booked to visit Sri Lanka until September to offer an alternative trip.
Said Storm: “From October onwards, we hope things will have calmed down.”
Muhammed Shafi, holiday consultant at Dubai-based Deira Travel, said Sri Lanka was a popular exotic destination with his clients from the UAE and Iraq, with enquires “significantly” dropping.
He added: “We have to wait and see what happens in the coming months. When people get the trust back and they are confident it is safe to travel, things will return to normal. It’s too early now to send people there.”
Natalia Ciupac, operations manager at Luxury World Key Group in Dubai, also remained confident that Sri Lanka’s tourism industry will see a swift recovery.
She said: “I don’t think it will take too long for tourists to return but we have to keep checking the situation. When travel advisories are lifted, I think we will quickly see confidence restored but that may take a little time.”