Sri Lanka eases quarantine rules for vaccinated tourists

Sri Lanka is relaxing quarantine rules for inoculated tourists arriving into the country, in a move which tourism operators hope will provide a much-needed boost to the industry.

Since the reopening of the international airport on January 21, 2021 after a 10-month pandemic closure, some 9,630 tourists have visited Sri Lanka in that period ending March. Industry officials estimate there should be at least 160,000 visitors a month for hotels to break even.

To boost visitor arrival numbers, Sri Lanka relaxes quarantine regulations; tourists strolling along Galle Fort in February 2021 pictured

According to Sri Lanka Tourism chairperson Kirmali Fernando, tourists who have received both doses of the vaccine two weeks before arriving in the country, will be required to take a PCR test on arrival, and another on the seventh day. Following after, they will be allowed to travel freely across the country. Officials say discussions are underway to allow vaccinated tourists to undergo just one PCR test during their stay.

For non-vaccinated tourists, a PCR test is required on arrival, and another on the seventh day of their stay. Guests must also be confined to one hotel for the first 14 days of their stay, if they are not departing before that.

Health officials say the daily number of Covid-19 cases are decreasing in Sri Lanka. As of Tuesday (April 6), 93,595 cases have been reported, with 581 deaths.

On Monday, all schools across the country reopened; while shops, offices, restaurants and hotels resumed operations, with capacity limits for public functions in hotels.

“With Covid-19 cases coming down, hopefully, quarantine regulations will be further relaxed. There is an expectation that lockdowns in Europe will also be lifted and we are hopeful of more arrivals after July,” said Hiran Cooray, chairman of the Jetwing Symphony group of hotels.

In the absence of foreign tourists, hotels have been dependent on local travellers who have been filling rooms during weekends, lured largely by the attractive discounts of between 60-70 per cent.

Cooray said that locals frequenting hotels during weekends have helped keep hotels afloat in terms of paying staff salaries and other amenities. Hotels are also gearing up for a staycation boom this upcoming weekend due to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year holidays.

Tourist Hotels Association president Sanath Ukwatte is also hopeful that European tourists will return in substantial numbers by July. “One of our concerns is that Indians (Sri Lanka’s largest source market) are still not travelling to Sri Lanka (while they are going to the Maldives),” he said.

Visitors from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Germany, the UK and China formed the bulk of foreign arrivals in Sri Lanka up to March 2021.

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