7 weeks after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, multiple countries have relaxed their travel advisories on Sri Lanka.
In the immediate aftermath of the 21 April bombings, 37 countries issued travel advisories on Sri Lanka, ranging from cautionary to “do not travel”. Following the steps taken by the government and security services, countries have now begun to relax their travel advisories. The industry hopes this will enable tourists to start returning to Sri Lanka quickly.
Tourist arrivals were down 7.5% in April, and 70% in May
Austria, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK have all relaxed or downgraded their travel advisories. Strong advisories still remain in place in some other countries, including the key source markets of Australia and the USA.
Sri Lanka’s top three source markets, India, China and the UK have all relaxed their advisories and now recommend vigilance. Together these three markets made up 40 per cent of overall tourist arrivals in 2018.
Australia, Sri Lanka’s fourth largest source market has not yet amended its advice. Since 1 May it has advised Australian nationals to “reconsider travel” to Sri Lanka. Prior to the attacks, Australia was one of the quickest growing inbound tourist markets. In 2018 110,000 Australian’s visited Sri Lanka, up 37 per cent on arrival numbers the year before.
Sri Lanka’s Top Ten Source Markets & Travel Advisories:
- India – be careful and vigilant (updated May 28)
- China – pay close attention and be vigilant (updated 31 May)
- United Kingdom – remain vigilant (updated 6 June)
- Germany – be more cautious
- Australia – Reconsider your need to travel
- France – exercise a high degree of caution
- United States – reconsider travel
- Russian Federation – Do not travel
- Netherlands – note safety risks
(current at 10 June)
Speaking to Hospitality Insider in May, Johanne Jayaratne, Chairman SLTDA said that getting the intensity of the travel advisories reduced was key. “Today’s traveller is very sophisticated and there is an enormous amount of information available for them, unlike previously. People are capable of making individual decisions. Once the intensity (of the travel advisories) is reduced, we’ll be all right.”
The tourism industry has been hit with a severe drop in tourist arrival numbers since the attacks. April arrivals were down 7.5 per cent. Kishu Gomes, Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) said at a press conference last week that arrivals for May were down 70% year on year.
To counteract the reduction in international arrivals, hotels have been offering special rates to encourage domestic tourism. However, while some hotels are experiencing full occupancy on weekends, with cut-price rates and a severe drop in occupancy during the week, there is no doubt the industry is suffering.