Sri Lanka – similar to Maldives – is considering reopening its air and sea borders in July to foreign tourists.
However, Sri Lanka Tourism’s chairperson Kimarli Fernando said arrivals would be mostly overseas Sri Lankans returning to visit relatives and friends. In anticipation of this, the government is planning to aggressively promote domestic tourism in nine provinces to help fill hotels and resorts.
She was speaking at a webinar on Monday hosted by the Cinnamon group of hotels, titled Charting a course for Sri Lanka’s tourism future, in conjunction with several other tourism stakeholders.
To reassure travellers, Fernando shared that hotels will have to go through a new certification process to ensure their properties are compliant with globally accepted health and safety standards. Also in the works is the Visit Sri Lanka Year campaign in 2022.
Another positive sign Fernando shared was that several airlines have expressed an interest in resuming flights to Colombo, and were actively seeking partnerships with tourism authorities.
Anita Mendiratta, UNWTO’s special advisor to the secretary-general, shared that according to latest projections, there will be a 60 per cent drop in global tourism travel, yet Asia will be the first region to recover. Business travel and people travelling to meet their loved ones overseas would be the first to take off.
Dillip Rajakarier, CEO, Minor Hotels Group, believes that tourism will take 12 to 18 months for a full recovery.
“We are looking at cash flows and how to sustain during this period,” he said, adding that in light of the situation, buffet-type meals will also not be offered for a long time to maintain social distancing.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators has issued a set of guidelines for DMCs to follow once tourism gets underway. For instance, group photographs will be discouraged, while local guides on the tour bus will have to speak from behind a screen.