Sri Lanka’s recent move to ban travellers from India due to the exponential growth in Covid-19 cases there was inevitable as the safety of Sri Lankans remains a priority over economic interests, industry officials said.
Trevor Rajaratnam, former president of the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka, called the ban a “sensible” decision to avoid the virus spreading in Covid-19 certified hotels where Indian visitors would come into contact with other foreign guests and local staff.
On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s Civil Aviation Authority announced that due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation in India, passengers travelling from India will “not be permitted to disembark in Sri Lanka with immediate effect”. Indian travellers were welcome under a special travel bubble.
Since reopening its borders to tourism on January 21, 2021, Sri Lanka has seen only a trickle of arrivals. India has been Sri Lanka’s biggest source market in the pre-pandemic period. However, during the period from January 21 to end-April 2021, Kazakhstan emerged the country’s top source market, followed by Ukraine, Germany and then India.
Hiran Cooray, chairman of the Jetwing Symphony Group of Hotels, also welcomed the government’s move to ban Indian travellers. “Health is our number one priority,” he said, adding that it would also be wise for authorities to enforce a lockdown in Sri Lanka for one to two weeks given the sharp rise in the number of virus cases locally.
On Thursday (May 6), Sri Lanka hit a record daily toll of 1,939 Covid-19 infections and 14 deaths, taking the total to 117,529 cases with 734 deaths. The spike in cases has been attributed to Sri Lankans thronging shopping malls and street markets and travelling on crowded trains and buses during the long New Year holiday in mid-April.
A manager at a hotel situated in the central hill station of Kandy, a popular resort town, said they haven’t seen any Indian visitors since the pandemic started. He added that pre-Covid, Indian visitors usually accounted for 25 per cent or more of the total number of guests at the property.