India, Sri Lanka’s largest tourism source market, has relaxed travel restrictions to Sri Lanka as the country makes attempts to recover from plunging arrival numbers in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings.
On Tuesday, India’s travel advisory was updated from “non-essential travel” to “be careful and vigilant” when travelling to Sri Lanka.
India’s updated advisory for Sri Lanka comes after a similar move made earlier this week by China – Sri Lanka’s second largest source market – prompting other countries like Germany, Switzerland and Sweden to follow suit, officials at the state-run Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau said.
Earlier this week on Monday, Switzerland updated its travel advisory to “in Sri Lanka travellers must be very vigilant about their personal safety”, compared to the previous cautioning to “avoid unnecessary travel to Sri Lanka”.
On the same day, Germany also updated its travel advisory from “unnecessary travel to Sri Lanka is still discouraged” to “despite the restoration of public order, travel to Sri Lanka will continue to be more cautious”.
According to Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka’s chief Trevor Rajaratnam, this happened after prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met with the heads of 43 foreign missions in Sri Lanka last week, urging them to lift the travel restrictions. The consulates were also provided a security briefing by the military, which reiterated that all of Sri Lanka was safe for travellers.
“This was going to happen sooner than later, and the prime minister’s meeting, along with a security briefing, helped. The others (countries) will soon follow suit,” Rajaratnam opined. He also hopes that the UK, Sri Lanka’s third largest source, will lift its travel ban soon.
Countries such as India, China, the UK and Canada had imposed travel bans on Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the attack, which killed over 250 people including 40 tourists. Foreign visitors were advised to cancel all non-essential travel, causing occupancy rates at most hotels in the country to dip by more than 70 per cent.
Jetwing Hotels’ chairperson Shiromal Cooray welcomed the relaxation of travel bans, and added that hopefully by July things will change and the country will be able to recover by December.”
“The numbers won’t be the same during the winter season, but still it would (still be an improvement). Our hotels are now averaging 30-35 per cent with many local clients during weekends. Indians have also started coming in,” she shared. Many local hotels have been offering discounts of up to 60 per cent to attract locals, particularly during weekends.