- Says tourism industry heaving sigh of relief, optimistic of faster recovery after Easter attacks
The tourism industry has welcomed the much-awaited Government decision to lift the State of Emergency, with a collective sigh of relief, with hopes that it will serve as a huge boost to the revival of tourism, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) said yesterday.
Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga welcomed the move by the Government, adding that Sri Lanka within the last few months was able to neutralise the terrorist threat whilst consolidating its destination management with new and innovative incentives to welcome more tourists to the country, the SLTPB said in a statement.
“In a matter of just four months our security forces have been able to neutralise the terrorist threat and declare the country as absolutely safe for tourists. With the lifting of the Emergency regulations, all impediments for travel to the country have now been cleared. It is encouraging that the world has responded by helping Sri Lanka return to the normal pattern of arrivals in a much shorter period than initially anticipated by the tourism industry. We can now confidently look forward to a very successful winter season ahead, which is traditionally our peak season. With the free visa program in full swing and reduced ticket prices, Sri Lanka is now a very competitive destination for the international traveller,” Amaratunga said.
Sri Lankan travel industry representatives say the lifting of Emergency rule comes as a relief and hope it will encourage more tourists to visit the country in the coming months. Many experts are of the belief that it may prompt other countries to soften up their travel advisories in lieu of the measures taken by the Government to safeguard tourists and locals alike.
For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Russian Federation has relaxed their travel advisory against Sri Lanka with effect from 26 August. However, they have recommended that Russian citizens intending to visit Sri Lanka should remain vigilant and avoid crowded places.
SLTPB Chairman Kishu Gomes believes that Sri Lanka Tourism can reach the target of two million for the year, given that the situation in the country has returned to normalcy. He said that with more international conferences coming up this year such as the Bohra Convention, the number of tourist arrivals is likely to increase, bringing much revenue and income, and enhancing the tourism sector, an industry where both small and large scale entrepreneurs and industry stakeholders earn their living through tourism related activities.
“The increasing number of tourist arrivals show that Sri Lanka has regained its position as a number one travel destination in the world offering everything that the ideal traveller wants and has shown that travellers can have a safe stay, while exploring the cultural and natural beauty of Sri Lanka.”
It is expected that 21,000-25,000 guests of the Bohra community will visit Sri Lanka from 40 countries to attend the international Bohra convention scheduled from 1-10 September, at the Bohra headquarters, Bambalapitiya. This is the largest single gathering of foreign visitors to Sri Lanka, which would help boost Sri Lanka tourism in its hour of need.