The tragic blasts on Easter Sunday is just the start of a long weary summer for Sri Lanka's tourism industry
- The eight blasts in the country saw a death toll of 290.
- Three big hotels were a target of the blasts, affecting tourists.
- The island nation’s popularity as a tourist destination was already under pressure because of a political crisis and now it could be further affected.
Five-star hotels were among the main targets of the bombing that included Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and the Kingsbury in the capital Colombo.
That is a direct hit to Sri Lanka’s travel and tourism industry. Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) President Harith Perera told The Sunday Times that this was the first time that hotels have been directly attacked.
The island nation for long has been a favourite tourist destination especially after the end of a protracted civil war that ended a decade ago, bringing peace and tourists to the tropical country that is famous for its pristine beaches and several old tea plantations.
According to reports, the Sri Lankan government had been looking at ramping up its efforts for tourism in the country. The government had plans to double the annual income from tourism from $3.5 billion in 2018 to $7 billion in 2019.
"Although the tourist arrivals for the year 2018 fell slightly short due to the political instability we saw post 26th October, I think in terms of earnings we have reached the $3.5 billion target, Minister of Tourism Development, John Amaratunga had said to a local daily.
With the numbers already dwindling (the earnings from tourism in 2018 were 10.3% lower than 2017), the blasts could further lead to distrust among tourists.
The political crisis in Sri Lanka began when Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as Prime Minister on 26 October 2018 before the formal dismissal of the current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, resulting in two concurrent Prime Ministers. This resulted in escalated tensions in the country which also scared off tourists.
However, Indian travel firms believe the impact will be temporary. Speaking to Business Standard, Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer (B2C), Yatra.com said "The unfortunate attacks in Sri Lanka have happened just ahead of the peak summer travel season. Sri Lanka has always been a preferred travel option for Indian tourists. While it is early to quantify the impact of this incident on travel to the country, we anticipate a short term effect on bookings with some travelers preferring to shift to other destinations for their summer vacations."
Indian airlines like Air India and IndiGo are also helping out tourists stranded in Sri Lanka by waiving off rescheduling and cancellation charges.
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