Tourism has dropped to an all-time low, and the outlook for tourism in August is bleak with 30 per cent of bookings cancelled, according to the Yala Jeep Owners’ Association (YJOA). They said, the priority given to the tourism industry has drastically diminished because there is no roadmap, and even providing diesel to keep the wheels of tourism in motion has been stalled.
President of the YJOA,A.P. Ajith Priyantha said they are in dire straits because there is no plan in place to guide them, and even the Pradeshiya Sabha or Divisional Secretariat has not extended any assistance to the 600 or more jeep drivers during the economic crisis.
Elaborating further, he said they do not even attract local tourists, and that the on-going economic crisis primarily caused by fuel shortages, has hit them hard. Apart from a reeling tourism industry, those who are stranded in Sri Lanka are also caught up in the crisis, he added. He complained that the Tourist Board too is maintaining a silent stance and that there is no relevant authority to relate their plight.
The safari jeeps’ maintenance has also caused them severe constraints, as the cost of vehicle spare parts and tyres,have increased by 300 percent.
Following the Easter attacks, tourism took a back seat as political upheavals took centre stage. “While tourism was picking up after the Covid-19 peak, the government’s instability drove the industry to a halt.” There does not appear to be a broad solution to revitalise tourism. While there are travel advisories in place, tourist arrivals in August this year are expected to be low, with over 30 percent of bookings cancelled, he added.
BY Sulochana Ramiah Mohan