Tourism withdraws COVID rules, awaits health guidelines
Amidst an uproar against controversial new COVID rules issued for tourists, Sri Lanka Tourism withdrew its last statement and is now awaiting guidelines from relevant health authorities.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Chairman Priyantha Fernando told the Business Times that the last guideline issued was meant to ensure that no country was singled out. “We cannot discriminate tourists and because of geopolitics we have to be extremely careful,” he said.
These guidelines were issued at the same time that other countries around the world started to place restrictions on Chinese entering their destinations following the announcement by Chinese authorities that they are opening up.
SLTDA had on January 13 issued a statement highlighting that all tourists visiting Sri Lanka needs to provide proof of vaccination or obtain a negative PCR test. This led to the industry protesting against this new guideline highlighting that it would have an adverse impact on future arrivals at a time they are trying raise their head amidst the economic setbacks.
As a result the authorities were compelled to withdraw the guidelines they had sought to enforce although the actual enforcement agency can only be the Health Ministry.
Sri Lanka needs the Chinese travellers to revive the destination and more so as a result of the impending economic downturn in Europe that could cause a drop in long haul traffic.
There are hopes that the Chinese market will revive and a surge in traffic is expected to reach at least 220,000 arrivals this year with India topping the list at an expected 264,000, Russia at 225,000, UK expected to increase to 179,000, Germany likely to generate 114,000 and France at 71,000. Other key markets that the industry is hoping to develop are Spain, Netherlands and Switzerland; and authorities also hope traffic from Japan and South Korea could account for pilgrim traffic on the Buddhist trail well-ness tourism to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Tourism One Voice Spokesman Mahen Kariyawasam told the Business Times that there is no indications that Chinese tour operators have started to market Sri Lanka yet.
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