REMOVAL OF GLOBAL TRAVEL WARNINGS A MUST – SLAITO

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Sri Lanka expects a revival in its USD 5 billion worth tourism industry as soon as Covid-19 and other economic crisis related global travel advisories and warnings are lifted, President of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), Nishad Wijetunga said at the SLAITO AGM in Colombo on Friday.

Several countries have issued travel warnings against the Island nation by advising their travellers to avoid non-essential travel to Sri Lanka due to the economic crisis, which has led to shortages of basic necessities including fuel, food and medicines, and an unstable security situation.

“Tourist arrivals will pick up following elimination of queues in the near term via upcoming Indian and other further bridge financing options, in the meantime, we have launched tourism promotion campaigns targeting tourists from India and Middle -Eastern countries,” SLAITO President stated.

He also said Sri Lankan authorities have planned three road shows in India mainly targeting Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore cities in this month as an immediate promotion.

At the beginning of this year Sri Lanka has targeted around 1.3 million tourist arrivals. But first five months period of this year it has reached only to 378,521 while tourist arrivals fell to the lowest point of the year in May recording 30,207 due to 9 May civil violence and negative publicity related to economic crisis.

Debt

SLAITO has also submitted a proposal to restructure existing tourism sector loans and advances with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank as the sector debt moratorium is due to expire on 30 June. The total debt portfolio of the tourism industry was Rs 300 billion in 2020, but it has risen to a staggering Rs 500 billion currently. The moratorium which was initially granted following the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019.

Speaking on the occasion, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman, Priyantha Fernando said around 800,000 to 850,000 tourists have been targeted this year.

He also said tourism earnings are expected to be between US $ 800-1000 million this year.

“There has been a lot of negative publicity across the world. Therefore we have been regularly conducting promotional sessions via our diplomatic missions to brief the Sri Lanka’s real situation to the world. Some airlines have already agreed to promote
Sri Lanka as their preferable tourist destination. In the future, these conditions will gradually disappear and a revival of the tourism industry is expected,” Priyantha Fernando asserted.

He said arrangements have already been made in consultation with the relevant authorities regarding the possibility of providing electricity, gas, fuel and other essential items for the tourism industry in Sri Lanka without any interruptions.

By Ishara Gamage