HOSPITALITY INSIDER – Just over two weeks after the Easter Sunday attacks, 37 countries have travel advisories out warning against travel to Sri Lanka.
In a press conference today (6 May 2019), Kishu Gomes, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau / Tourism Development Authority said that the number of travel advisories was “a major concern”.
The travel advisories on Sri Lanka vary in strength, from “of concern”, to “essential travel only” and “do not travel” warnings.
India, Sri Lanka’s largest source market by far, has advised its citizens against “all non-essential travel” since 27 April.
China, the second largest market, advises its citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka in the near future, noting that visiting “will bring huge security risks to the parties.”
The UK, Sri Lanka’s third-largest source market advises against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka. It states: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Sri Lanka. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
The United States, another of Sri Lanka’s key source markets issued a Level 2 warning after the attacks but since changed it to Level 3. On 26 April, the US Department of State ordered the departure of all school-age family members of U.S. government employees and the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members. The US Travel Advisory states “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations… and other public areas.”
- India – Against non-essential travel
- China – Do not travel
- United Kingdom – Against all but essential travel
- Australia – Reconsider your need to travel
- United States – Level 3 – (downgraded on 27 April from Level 2)
- Russian Federation – Do not travel
- Netherlands – Only essential travel
The impact of these travel warnings on cancellations is vast in the short term. It is hoped that the advisories will soon be revised down and this will help to limit damage to the Sri Lanka tourism industry in the mid to long-term.
Sri Lanka Tourism Priorities
For Sri Lanka Tourism, Gomes stated that the two key focus areas are now on national security and on the security of hotels frequented by tourists.
“We need to be able to go out and say the country is back on track and safety is assured.”
Gomes said it is the obligation and accountability of Sri Lanka Tourism to ensure that hotels and other destinations tourists are patronising are safe and secure. He added that they are working together on this with Sri Lanka police and the military on this.
Once national security is assured, the travel advisories will be the next focus Gomes said.
“We will be talking to these missions to place facts in front of them to see how we can get their confidence back, to get these travel advisories reversed.”
Throughout the media conference, Gomes was keen to stress his confidence in Sri Lanka as a destination brand and his optimism that the country and Sri Lanka’s tourism industry will bounce back from these attacks.