Sri Lanka’s tourism sector is en route to recovery despite the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. Even though the recovery was delayed by the second COVID wave, the hotel company executives are hopeful that Sri Lanka could be one of the first destinations in Asia to open its borders to international tourists within the first quarter of the next year.
Opening of international travel corridors and strengthening domestic travel were identified as initial measures in welcoming international tourists by a group of Hotel company executives who participated in the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific. Aitken Spence Hotel Management, Chairperson, Stasshani Jayawardena speaking at the online conference said that there are signs of a possible opening of borders for international tourists in Q12021 given the efforts made by the government authorities. She even commended the authorities for the continuous efforts in containing the virus.
A 365-day destination, Sri Lanka is blessed with a number of tourist attractions. Tourism is one of the largest foreign exchange earning industries and was bouncing back after the Easter Sunday attacks back in 2019. Before this unfortunate incident, the island nation was named one of the best countries to visit in 2019 by Lonely planet. Tourist visits to Sri Lanka increased dramatically post the 30-year civil war. The numbers: 2.3 million in 2018, 2.1 million in 2017 speak of the industry’s growth.
Since April 2020 with the global pandemic situation worsening, Sri Lanka recorded zero tourist arrivals. The country was inching closer towards a recovery having brought the pandemic under control before a second wave that sprung from the western province (Minuwangoda and Peliyagoda) disrupted the plans again. However, the speaker including Jayawardena trusts the government’s potential to curb the second wave and help build the country’s economy. They went on to say: “Sri Lanka has been practicing proper health measures since March 2020 and it is commendable to see how the authorities have coped up with the pandemic when global COVID cases were reaching record highs.”
With the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, most of the countries closed their borders to international tourists to curb the spread. This inevitable decision badly affected the global tourism sector and led to severe economic drawbacks. The countries with zero COVID cases and or low spread are now looking at lifting travel bans and easing restrictions in a bid to revive the battered economies.