affects travel trade
The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) disease spreading
across Asia and the world is beginning to seriously affect Sri Lanka's
travel trade, with many people cancelling holiday trips to popular
shopping destinations like Singapore and traffic from new tourism
markets such as China drying up.
While a spokesperson
from the Sri Lankan Airlines said its outbound traffic particularly
to destinations like Hong Kong and Singapore, among a host of countries
badly hit by SARS, was little affected, the country's travel trade
spoke of a more serious situation.
has hit about 25 countries, killing 164 people and infecting more
than 3,500. So far Sri Lanka has not reported any cases though there
have been some false alarms, which have created panic and confusion
in some hospitals.
chairman of Ceylon Carriers, said that SARS had affected overseas
travel by Sri Lankans, many of whom go abroad during the long holidays
traffic has been affected quite badly," he said. "No one
is going to the Far East during these holidays. Normally flights
would have been completely full."
traffic from the Far East has also been hit, with a marked drop
in the number of visitors from Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Also, Chinese traffic, which we were promoting so aggressively,
has virtually come to a grinding halt."
But, he said,
arrivals from India, which last year accounted for the highest number
of visitors, had not been affected.
Last year about
25,000 people from East Asia visited the island in the first six
months, accounting for 15 percent of total visitors, the bulk of
them from Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
for Gabo Travels said that bookings for Asian countries like Singapore
and Hong Kong had been affected. "Passengers are not travelling
to Singapore," he said.
for the Bandaranaike International Airport said that with every
flight that lands the authorities make announcements advising passengers
with symptoms of SARS to report to medical staff. Airport medical
staff are also on the look out for passengers with symptoms of the
virus and all staff working in the passenger movement areas have
been given masks.
have been put up in the immigration and baggage clearance areas,
Travels Ltd reported a drop of around five percent in their outbound
bookings but noted that there were no cancellations. "What
is basically happening is that business travellers would be flying
anyway but holiday makers tend to hold back." A spokesman said
these were postponements rather than cancellations.
The SARS epidemic
has had some impact even on business travel, especially to Hong
travelling to the east, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and China,
are somewhat hesitant and some have even postponed their visits
but those going to the West and the
have had no problem, said Tilak de Zoysa, chairman of the
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
He said he
had heard that businessmen in the garments trade who meet in Hong
Kong or whose buyers have regional offices there, have postponed
their meetings owing to the epidemic.
said their sales were badly affected. A spokesman said, This
is the (only) season when we expect some business due to the school
holidays. But we have been badly affected due to SARS.
for Universal Travels and Tours said there were a few cancellations
by Sri Lankans travelling abroad. About 30 to 40 bookings to Hong
Kong over the last several days have been put on hold by passengers.
of Jetwing Travels said tourists already booked to visit the island
had not cancelled their trips but that there had been a marked drop
in new bookings.
is fortunate that people already booked until April - May have not
cancelled their visits but were not getting any new bookings
because travellers are waiting to see when the SARS epidemic ends.
She estimated new bookings had fallen by 70-80 percent.
also feeling the effect gradually, specially those which cater to
for Taj Airport Garden Hotel said certain groups from China and
Japan have cancelled their bookings through their travel agents
causing a certain amount of concern.
He said that
visitors to the Maldives usually stay one night in Colombo and then
travel to the archipelago but that this market had also been wiped
out. But considering the overall occupancy, the impact was negligible.
were not affected. A spokesperson for the Ranweli Holiday Village
said that the SARS disease has not had any impact as they cater
mainly to European travellers. Keells Hotel Management, which has
a number of hotels under its purview, also indicated that the disease
did not have any impact on its overall sales.
firms eye $330 mln offshore mineral deposit
10 foreign and local companies have shown interest in exploiting
offshore mineral deposits worth an estimated $330 million lying
off the southwest coast.
Prevention Authority (MPPA) chairman Dr. N.S.K.N. de Silva said
the foreign firms were from India and Australia.
were responding to a call for expressions of interest by the Ministry
of Fisheries and Ocean Resources, through the MPPA, for exploitation
of offshore mineral deposits off Panadura, Kalutara and Bentota.
of interest were called for from companies with previous experience
in coastal and offshore exploration and exploitation.
The MPPA said
a high resolution marine geophysical survey conducted off the southwestern
coast in 1997 has revealed the availability of more than 170 million
cubic metres of heavy mineral deposits in the top two metres of
the sea bed.
consisting of ilmenite, monazite, rutile and zircon, have a potential
value of more than $330 million.
for state employees
plans to announce an increase in the salaries of public servants
towards the end of this year, Finance Minister K.N. Choksy said.
The pay hike
is likely to be unveiled in the November budget as part of government
measures to ease the burden on the people who have had to face price
hikes, especially in fuel and electricity, in recent months, he
is considering an increase of wages in the public sector during
the latter part of this year, provided international economic conditions
remain stable," Choksy said in an interview. The government
in January increased the allowances of senior officials of state
corporations, statutory boards and government-owned companies and
said a salary increase for public servants would be considered after
June if the economy improved, giving rise to expectations of a pay
hike towards the middle of the year.
said all foreign aid would be channelled through the government,
allaying fears that the LTTE would get control of some of the money
pledged by donors for north-east reconstruction.
The World bank
said earlier this year that it would be the government's responsibility
to repay money the bank lent for reconstruction in the northeast
areas controlled by the Tigers.
World Bank Vice President for South Asia, said during a visit that
funds would be disbursed to organisations legally accepted by the
LTTE has been accepted as a legal entity by the government, we have
no problems with that," she said in an interview.
promotes tobacco, alcohol use
Despite government efforts to reduce tobacco and alcohol use by
discouraging their promotion in the mass media, a recent survey
has found that television commercials still feature tobacco, drugs
and alcohol-related visuals that indirectly promote their consumption.
The survey by the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre for the Ministry
of Health, Nutrition and Welfare has found that 85 percent of advertisements
about upcoming TV programmes portray drug, alcohol and tobacco-related
the ADIC Programme Officer who did the research for the survey,
said that movies and tele-dramas came first and second respectively,
in glamorizing smoking, drinking and drug use, and music third.
had the highest number of visuals containing scenes with alcohol,
tobacco and drug use, she said in an interview.
Even news programmes
and cartoons have content that indirectly promote tobacco, alcohol
and drugs, she said.
market seen rebounding with end of Gulf war
Demand for Ceylon tea is expected to recover at the Colombo
auctions this week now that the uncertainty caused by the
war that prompted buyers to hold back orders is over, industry
The industry can also look forward to renewed orders from
Iraq itself. Iraq was once one of the biggest buyers of Ceylon
tea. Last year Iraq imported over 17 millions kg of Ceylon
tea, making it the fourth biggest buyer.
Under the latest round of the UN oil-for-food programme, Sri
Lanka won a contract to supply 10 million kg of tea to Iraq.
The worst affected by the Gulf war were small holders producing
low growns, which are much in demand in the Middle East, and
the private tea factory owners who process their green leaf.
In the last sale of March the auction average for low growns
plunged to Rs. 132.84, 24 percent lower than the average for
the corresponding sale last year.
Prices of desiccated
coconut, whose main export market is in the Middle East, have bottomed
out with the end of the US-led war against Iraq and look set to
appears to have stabilised now," said Sunil Watawala, president
of the DC Millers Association. "We feel DC prices will go up."
sharply earlier this year, bringing down prices, as the uncertainty
caused by the war against Iraq prompted Middle Eastern buyers to
stop forward purchases and buy only on the spot market.
As much as
80 percent of Sri Lankan DC exports go to the Middle East.
he expects buyers to resume forward purchases now that the war had
had dipped to around Rs. 70 a kilo around March from Rs. 83 or to
$ 770 per metric tonne fob from $ 910.
DC prices are
now around Rs. 73-74 a kilo and are expected to go up to Rs. 75-76
a kilo or to $ 825/MT fob.
must step up production urgently to be able to meet anticipated
orders and recapture markets lost last year because of the severe
shortfall in the coconut crop caused by drought the year before,
Most of the
63 DC mills had closed because of the shortage of raw material and
the crisis caused by the Iraq war, he said.
last four months we've done only 3,500 tonnes," he said. "So
at least by the second week of May about 80 - 90 percent of millers
have to come into production," Watawala said.
managing director of Silvermill Holdings, which concentrates on
fancy grades such as toasted chips and chiplets used for breakfast
cereals, said they were operating below capacity because of the
shortage of nuts.
of nuts we have the capacity to process 180,000 nuts a day but we're
doing only 120,000 nuts a day because of the scarcity of nuts,"
raw material is 60-80 percent higher than that of our competitors.
Hence, making normal grades is not viable. So we concentrate on
customized products made according to orders from clients."
which supplies companies like Nestle and Kellogs, operated only
three days a week for the whole of 2002 because of the raw material
Under an agreement
with labour unions the company has to give a minimum of three days
of work a week.
of Sri Lankan DC is that we're close to the Middle East and enjoy
good freight rates to Europe," Silva said. "Also, our
flavour is better than the others due to climatic conditions."
He said it
was crucial that Sri Lankan DC prices do not dip below $ 750 per
tonne fob if DC millers are to abide by a guarantee they had given
the government not to buy raw nuts for less than eight rupees per
the Coconut Development Authority and the Plantations Industries
Ministry were negotiating with commercial banks to obtain subsidized
loans for millers.
year we had a terrible time due to the shortage of raw material
and high price of nuts. Millers lost a lot of money," he said.
"We managed to export only 28,000 MT whereas we export 60-70,000
MT of DC in a good year."
As a result
Sri Lankan exporters lost markets to the Philippines and Indonesia
which increased exports to 165,000 MT from 75,000 MT and to 50,000
MT from 35,000 MT respectively.
most of the Middle East market last year," Watawala said. "The
Middle East prefers to buy our DC because it is only five days by
ship to Dubai whereas from the Philippines it takes over two weeks."