Sri Lanka wants 'big brother' India to help revive tourism

Tourism minister assures that the island nation is now safe, announces travel packages discounted by up to 60 percent

Pankti Mehta Kadakia
Published: Jul 4, 2019 09:52:39 AM IST
Updated: Jul 4, 2019 12:14:43 PM IST

g_118055_sri_lanka_280x210.jpgImage: Shutterstock

After the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on April 21 killed about 250 people and injured at least 500, the county's tourism has been severely hit.

The attacks targeted luxury hotels and churches, and tourism numbers declined by 70 percent in the first month after the incidents. A Sri Lankan delegation visited India mid-June to propagate their belief that the country is now secure, and to invite Indian tourists with special discounted offers, slashing airline, hotel and transport prices by up to 60 percent, valid until September.

Indians account for the largest number of tourists in Sri Lanka—4 lakh in 2018 and 1.5 lakh in the first three months of 2019. While the initial target was to bring in 5 lakh Indians in 2019, it has been revised to 3 lakh.

“I assure all of India that Sri Lanka is secure. All those directly and indirectly involved in the attacks are in custody, and several countries have lifted their travel advisories, including India,” says John Amaratunga, tourism minister, wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs. Estimates state that Sri Lanka’s tourism losses after the attacks could amount to $1.5 billion. “Last year, we made $4.5 billion from tourism, and had estimated about $5 billion this year. Of course, those were derailed... we may be close to a $3 billion target now.”

Estimates state that Sri Lanka’s tourism losses after the attacks could amount to as much as $1.5 billion. “Last year, we made $4.5 billion from tourism, and we had estimated about $5 billion this year. Of course, those were derailed at the end of the fourth month, but now, things are picking up again. We may be close to a $3 billion target now,” Amaratunga told Forbes India. “This is unfortunate, as Sri Lanka is heavily dependent on tourism.”

The minister said that security has been beefed up at airports as well as hotels, and the plan to offer free visa and visa on arrival to certain countries is on hold for security reasons, which also further impacts inbound travel.

“We’re not insulated by terrorism in the world today. But we are confident in the way we have dealt with it, and have had external agencies come in for audits as well,” said Kishu Gomes, chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. “India is our big brother, and we hope that Indians will make the most of our lovely country and help us in our time of need. In fact, as Sri Lanka’s chances seem low, India now has another 22 million people cheering for their World Cup victory.”

(This story appears in the 19 July, 2019 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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