Tourism Chief says SL needs to take advantage of successful vaccination drive for winter season 

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 01:45 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka Tourism Chairperson Kimarli Fernando


  • Insists it is time SL learns to live with COVID like rest of the world
  • Opines coming weeks critical as winter travel decisions now being made
  • Says global health pandemic must not be politicised

By Charumini de Silva

Sri Lanka Tourism Chief Kimarli Fernando said yesterday the country needed to take advantage of the successful vaccination program whilst relaxing guidelines in line with global best practices to revive the COVID-hit tourism industry.

“Sri Lanka tourism has always been responsible. Our health protocols have been the most stringent. However, the protocols globally have changed and we need to be aware. The requests made to the Health Ministry for their consideration is based on previous discussions and best practice. Sri Lanka Tourism needs to take advantage of the successful vaccination program and relaxing guidelines in line with global best practices,” she told the Daily FT.

Noting that the global best practices had changed over time, Fernando said it was time the country understood the need to live with COVID. 

“The protocols previously used globally are no longer used. With new internationalist airlines such as Air France, Swiss Air and Aeroflot coming in, we need to look at best practices globally,” she asserted.

Fernando said the coming weeks were critical for the tourism sector, as decisions to travel this winter were already in the process of being made from all inbound markets. “It is the winter season that supports tourism stakeholders for the rest of the year. This will be the third winter season that Sri Lanka Tourism will see reduced demand and the recovery of the industry is vital in order to protect the three million dependent livelihoods as well as to revitalise our economy,” she added.

Fernando also said flight attendants of some of the leading airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, KLM, Air France, British Airways, Polish Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss Air no longer used PPE on flights.

“Many countries in the European Union, the UK, Greece, Egypt, Phuket, Tanzania, Abu Dhabi and Dubai do not conduct PCR on children. Globally, COVID antigen test for entry is accepted, including in Greece and Spain, with Schengen visa. Sri Lanka Tourism’s request was to accept antigen tests for ‘fully vaccinated’ passengers,” she explained.

Since the reopening of borders on 21 January, Sri Lanka has received a total of 37,767 tourists to date. Of that, the total COVID-19 positive tourists was 266, which is 0.7%. Any positive arrival is isolated and has no interaction with the community. All tourists who arrive in the country also pay $ 12 for a mandatory COVID insurance with a $ 50,000 cover, so they will not be a burden on the Government.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Chief also pointed to global competitors which had fewer restrictions despite lower vaccination rates.

“A number of countries do not have on-arrival PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers and have reduced restrictions on tests for children. Testing children below 12 years is very rare and is proving a major deterrent to Sri Lanka bookings according to travel agents,” she pointed out.

“Sri Lanka Tourism has always been prudent and was even criticised loudly for being too stringent. Many other countries also adopted the Safe and Secure hotel certification program and bio bubble concept that Sri Lanka Tourism initiated in January 2021. Nine months later, the world has understood the need to live with COVID,” she said.

Fernando called on Sri Lankans not to politicise a global health pandemic, adding that the country›s successful vaccination program was something all citizens could be proud of and gradual changes made to protocols keeping in line with global best practices would support the economy.

“Sri Lanka Tourism has in the past several months ensured that we restart tourism in a prudent manner and support the industry and our citizens. We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and seek their approval for any changes,” she said.