- Commends Govt. for latest relief measures, including wage support scheme for hotel employees, concessions for utility payments, and leasing moratorium
Colombo City Tourist Hotels Association (CCTHA) yesterday welcomed moves to open the country for tourists from 1 August, but expressed concern over the high visa fee of $ 100 per person, to partly cover the cost of PCR tests and other health safety measures.
CCTHA President M Shanthikumar said luring tourists post-COVID-19 will be a challenge, hence authorities must ensure the additional or higher cost doesn’t deter tourists from considering Sri Lanka for their next holiday.
“In Europe, the cost of PCR testing is 245 Euros per person. This is required for them to leave the country as a tourist. If we add our visa fee of $100 (which is about 85 Euros), each tourist will have to then pay a larger amount. This cost becomes double for a couple on holiday,” Shanthikumar said.
“We must try to strike a fair balance with our competition in the region, who will also try to lure the same tourists,” the CCTHA President emphasised, adding visa fees must be reasonable and affordable.
Apart from the key concern, Shanthikumar said CCTHA members are readying to welcome international tourists from 1 August, and also commended the Government for granting new relief for the tourism industry. He said the relief measures of 4% low interest loans to pay salaries, extensions on repayments of leasing facilities, as well as easy payment schemes for power and water bills, were highly appreciated by the CCTHA members, since they have been appealing for help since the tourism industry came to a standstill since late March.
“We have faced a challenging period during COVID-19, but we are positive that we will overcome this together one step at a time, and look forward to welcoming tourists to Sri Lanka just like before,” CCTHA President said.
“We have eagerly waited to restart operations, and we are happy that the authorities have granted us the green light to begin,” he said, extending appreciation to all the Government agencies that did a great task in containing the spread of COVID-19.
“Out of a population of 22 million people to date, we have had only 11 COVID-19 deaths. This is unfortunate, but the fatality count was very low in comparison to some of the other countries. Furthermore, not a single tourist in Sri Lanka died from the virus. Those tourists who were stranded here were kept safely in hotels, and received accommodation and meals without any hindrance,” recalled Shanthikumar.
The CCTHA Chief also commended Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority for its positive approach and coordination with the industry in working out practical solutions.
“We remain confident that all those in the travel trade and transport sector will adhere to strict health guidelines. We can guarantee that all hotel accommodations and other facilities will be duly certified by health authorities before we commence operations,” Shanthikumar said.
According to him, the restaurants and bars are open at present, and closed in advance before the night time curfew begins.
“For decades Sri Lanka has attracted tourists due to its warm tropical climate and beautiful locations in the island. Another segment that drew guests was our ancient Ayurveda treatments and Hela medicine. Now is the ideal moment for guests to visit this paradise island and indulge in these treatments, as this healing art has been with us for centuries. Apart from this we are famous for our exotic seafood dishes, and our succulent cuisine remains the same,” Shanthikumar emphasised.