Revival of Tourism in Sri Lanka
By Lakshman I. Keerthisinghe
“A healthy ocean is vital to our economy and well-being. We need clean and healthy oceans to sustain tourism and fisheries” - Scott Peters - US Politician
“Medical tourism can be considered a kind of import: instead of the product coming to the consumer, as it does with cars or sneakers, the consumer is going to the product”
- James Surowiecki - US Journalist
Media reported that Sri Lanka has reopened its borders for international tourism with strict entry rules as a precaution against the spread of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic. The entry rules require that tourists will be limited to where they can stay and go within the country for the first 14 days. Sri Lanka is now officially open for tourism as of 21 January 2021 allowing 2.500 tourists per day. Visitors from all countries and of all nationalities are welcome to visit Sri Lanka. International flights will arrive at both the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA).
COVID-19 entry requirements
To visit Sri Lanka visitors need to follow the entry requirements. They are requested to provide evidence of a negative PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours before arrival, be tested again upon arrival and a third test will be done on day 7 after arrival. All travellers must apply for an online visa and have an advance booking at one or more of the listed 52 properties. Tourists may not leave their hotel for the first 14 days with the exception of visiting 14 approved designated tourism sites. On completion of the 14 days they may interact with the community and move to any destination or lodging of their choice. Health authorities say the infectious period would be over by then.
All hotels designated for travellers to stay at for the first 14 days are located outside Colombo and are run by hospitality brands such as Anantara, Cinnamon, Heritance, Jetwing, and Taj. Travellers will not be confined to their rooms and are free to roam their resort and use the facilities including pools and gyms.
No preferential treatment will be given to travellers who have been vaccinated. All travellers including those who have been vaccinated must follow the COVID-19 testing rules and stay at designated hotels for the first 14 days.
All travellers must provide proof of a return plane ticket and sufficient funds to cover expenses while in Sri Lanka. Travellers are responsible for all costs associated with testing. Each test will cost USD $40.00 with a mandatory travel insurance costing USD $12.00 providing one month coverage. All travellers are required to complete a health declaration form upon arrival stating they are not suffering from COVID-19 symptoms. Temperature on arrival will be recorded. All travellers must fill out the online Electronic Travel Authorisation. Once approved, travellers are permitted to stay for 30 days but may extend it to six months without leaving the country.
An Oman Air flight carrying 50 Sri Lankans arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Colombo early 21 January 2021.
The Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga thanked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa for reviving the COVID-19-affected tourism industry which employs three million people. Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairperson Kimarli Fernando said the Tourism Ministry has formulated detailed safety protocols and procedures in consultation with the Health Ministry and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Medical tourism is an area to be developed as Sri Lanka’s local medications are now appreciated in many foreign states. Sri Lanka Tourism has created an online information portal and a 24-hour operational centre contactable via phone or e-mail, with which tourists can have access to support and information updates. Sri Lanka currently has a PCR testing capacity for 2,500 tourist arrivals per day. Tourists will have to purchase insurance and pay for their own PCR tests. BIA in the country's west and MRIA in the south are both currently opened to scheduled and chartered flights from at least eight airlines including Sri Lanka's national carrier Srilankan Airlines.
In conclusion, it is commendable that the Government has decided to revive the tourism industry in Sri Lanka with all necessary health precautions in order to invigorate the economic prosperity of out motherland.
The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM, MPhil.(Colombo)[email protected]