In a telling effect of the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Sri Lanka passed April without a single incoming tourist, as per latest data released.
The historic development is in view of Sri Lankan borders being closed for tourists, a move applied by most countries in line with measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The monthly statistical bulletin of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), depicted “0” for tourist arrivals in the month of April. The Government terminated arrivals of all passenger flights and ships into Sri Lanka from 18 March 2020.
With this zero figure, tourist arrivals in the first four months are now down by 44.1% to 507,311 from a year earlier. As entry of foreigners continue in tandem with travel restrictions globally, tourist arrivals in May is likely to be zero as well.
The initial spread of COVID-19 globally and enforcement of global travel restrictions caused a downward trend in tourist arrivals for the year. In January, arrivals fell by 6.5% to 228,434, and in February, arrivals declined by 17.7% to 207,507, while in March it further dropped by 70.8% to 71,370.
“The effect of the outbreak of COVID-19 is clearly evident, as all countries have recorded a decline in arrivals from mid-February. However, it is noteworthy that arrivals from countries such as Kazakhstan (92.7 %), Bhutan (43.4 %), Russian Federation (15.2 %), Poland (11.2 %), and Turkey (3.2 %) have recorded an increase for the above period,” SLTDA said.
According to the Immigration and Emigration Department, around 11,000 tourists still remain in the country, and it has extended the visas of all types for foreigners in Sri Lanka till 11 June.
On 12 March, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, there were 76,224 foreign travellers in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Tourism last week called on all international tourists, businessmen, and expatriates engaged in the sector, to register on its newly launched ‘Tourist and Expatriate Support Centre’ website on www.register.sltda.gov.lk, to collect data and create a mechanism of tracking tourists in the country.
In addition, Sri Lanka Tourism embarked on its biggest ever stakeholder consultation, seeking proposals from 34 industry associations at national and regional level to chart the industry’s way forward amidst the major challenges worldwide post-COVID-19.
Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga and top officials of Airport Aviation Services (Lanka) Ltd. recently discussed plans to allow tourists to enter under quarantine as soon as it is practical, and permitting the fee-free visa to 48 countries.