- Outlook remains bleak for tourism industry with bookings dwindling
By Charumini de Silva
Hit by dwindling bookings, hotels are setting in motion contingency measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initial measures include paid leave for non-essential staff, to progress to no-pay leave in the event of no support from Government and aggravation of the situation.
“Occupancy is definitely dropping. Around 60% of travellers coming to Sri Lanka are Europeans, but with major source markets such as Germany, Italy, France and few Scandinavian countries now contemplating shutting down travel, our industry is going to face a negative impact,” The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Sanath Ukwatte told the Daily FT.
Considering the current booking patterns and occupancy levels, THASL predicts that the outlook for the industry will be bleak in April.
“We are still compiling data, but given the overall situation, we anticipate around 30% to 40% drop in occupancy, compared to the same period a year ago. We feel that bookings by foreigners in April will be worse,” he added.
Most airlines limiting regular services and countries shutting down borders etc. will have a huge blow to the entire tourism industry, he pointed out. “If the pandemic continues for too long, we will have no tourists,” Ukwatte warned.
He also said that individual companies are already considering the logical option of putting staff on leave, as it saves additional cost for the hotels, and is also good for the personal safety of the staff. However, he noted the hotel industry as a whole had not taken any holistic decision on the same as yet.
THASL hailed the slew of measures announced by the Government thus far in containing the spread of the virus, while also extending its fullest cooperation to reduce the COVID-19 outbreak.
On the path to survival, THASL called on local travellers to support the tourism industry, especially with school holidays commencing from today onwards.
“We appeal to the local tourists to support our industry in this hour of need. Most of the hotels have already announced credit and debit card offers ahead of the festive season. The Government has also offered incentives to the industry by eliminating VAT, NBT and other taxes. The hotel rates are quite attractive now,” he said.
Ukwatte also said the staff has been trained to handle the situation with special hygiene practices.