Hit by coronavirus, tourism industry pleads for one-year extension on relief package

Friday, 7 February 2020 00:18 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



  • Says cancellations after coronavirus outbreak crushing post-Easter attack recovery
  • Experts predict at least 9 months needed for recovery, appeal to Govt. for support    

The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) yesterday urged the Government to consider extending the relief package for the tourism industry after the Easter Sunday attacks by a further period of one year as all expectations of recovery had been adversely affected by the outbreak of novel coronavirus.

It said the latest global epidemic had resulted in large-scale cancellation of bookings from China and concerns and reluctance to travel by visitors from other markets. “Our priority at this time is to safeguard livelihoods of 500,000 staff and nearly two million dependents,” THASL President Sanath Ukwatte said in a statement.

At present the moratoriums on all loans and interest granted by financial institutions to travel and tourism sector is only up to 31 March 2020.

Ukwatte said as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared coronavirus a global emergency, the industry had observed a sharp increase in cancellation of airlines operating to China and bringing about a general fear among visitors to avoid airports, travel and other public places.

As the infected number and deaths have already surpassed the outbreak of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), experts believe it will take at least six to nine months for the world travel industry to recover from this.

The Chinese tourism market is the second largest to Sri Lanka and it accounts for 10% of total arrivals and, as with all other markets, it was gradually recovering after the April attacks targeting churches and hotels. 

The industry is currently working closely with the Government and the tourism authority to expedite the launch of the global tourism marketing campaign. The industry is also looking into the possibility of diverting visitors to Sri Lanka from other leading destinations in Asia that are experiencing cancellations due to visitor reluctance to travel to those countries as the virus spreads.

So far, Sri Lanka has had only one affected visitor and she too has recovered well, according to medical sources.

THASL expressed its great appreciation to the Government, particularly the Ministry of Health, all staff at the airport, the National Carrier and the doctors and health professionals at the Colombo Infectious Diseases Health facility for their dedicated service in addressing this virus speedily and taking necessary steps to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Our nation, on this occasion, as in the past, has amply demonstrated its resilience and its capacity to face challenges, however daunting, with strength and confidence. THASL stands ready to make its own contribution to the national effort at this critical time,” said Ukwatte.


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