Sri Lanka braces for tough times

COLOMBO, 24 April 2019: Following the Easter Sunday bombings in the Sri Lankan capital that killed 253* people including 36 foreigners, the country fears its tourism industry will now take a serious tumble.

Sri Lanka’s tourism has been expanding fast over the last two years and officials were forecasting a record 2019 before the latest tragedy hit the country. Now on top of the tragic loss of life, tourism a major contributor to the nation’s economy could face a crisis.

Tour operators in Europe are allowing clients to cancel trips over the next few months waiving all cancellation fees.

Tourists killed in the bombings at three hotels in the capital came from the UK, Denmark, Australia, China and India.

Powerful explosions hit three hotels in Colombo, Cinnamon Grand, The Shangri-La and Kingsbury Hotel.

Security has been beefed up at all hotels across the country with some properties such as the Galle Face hiring armed guards to prevent non-residents from entering.

Social media posts reflect the uncertainty with travellers clearly concerned about their safety if they go ahead with their holiday plans.

But there are also travellers who are saying they want to support Sri Lankans by visiting the country and demonstrating they will not give in to terror.

Tourist arrivals last year reached 2.33 million and have grown steadily since 2009 when a peace settlement ended a civil war that had lasted more than 25 years. Tourist arrivals had declined to around 448,000 when peace was finally declared.

In the decade that followed, tourism turned into a success story supporting around 1 million jobs and delivering the third largest source of foreign exchange. 

The Sunday bombings targeted prominent hotels and churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.

In the aftermath, concealed bombs were disarmed in the capital and security forces reported a string of arrests.

Travel advisories issued Tuesday noted that the government has declared a state of emergency and may impose curfews at short notice.

The Australian travel advisory cautions: “If you’re travelling during curfew hours, prearrange transport with the necessary curfew permits, through your hotel or localhost well in advance.”

Travellers are warned if they are departing from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport give at least four hours for check-in due to heightened security measures at the airport.

Travel advisories have raised the level of caution to “reconsider your need to travel’ to Sri Lanka.”

  • Figure updated by public health department 26 April reducing the death toll from earlier estimates of 321 to 359 fatalities.