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Photo: Sri Lanka Tourism

Danger signs for Sri Lanka tourism

“The buoyancy in the industry is gone,” says one tourism chief, due to political turbulence in a destination increasingly popular with Europeans.

Just as Sri Lanka was preparing for an improved winter season, a bitter political feud which has led to the sacking of Sri Lanka’s prime minister has turned the clock back for the country’s travel trade, TTG Asia reports.

The crisis has led to calls from western countries for parliament to be restored, while several travel warnings have been issued focusing on visitors from Europe.

Multiple developments include a Supreme Court ruling this week to suspend a presidential order to dissolve parliament. People in the travel industry say some cancellations have been reported, while at least two conferences have been postponed.

Despite the cancellations not yet being on a large scale, “because of the crisis we have lost the momentum and don’t see many future bookings,” says Shiromal Cooray, managing director of Jetwing Travels.

“There is a level of unease as to what will happen. The buoyancy in the industry is gone.”

FITs and families may rethink travel to Sri Lanka due to the confusion, Trevor Rajaratnam, president of the Travel Agents Association of Sri Lanka, admits, but he added that large group travel is unlikely to be affected.

Charters still arriving
An official at the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau tells TTG Asia that November-December is a lean season for conferences but a ten-day tour by 100 Spanish travel agents at the end of this month is still on track.

Tourism promotion is also continuing, assures Dushan Wickramasuriya, acting managing director at the state-run Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.

“We had five travel writers from Germany, the UK and Poland on a fam tour during the crisis period and also a group of seven bloggers. Currently there are seven location managers from the UK scouting for good film location sites here,” he said.

Charters from Europe keep arriving. But a new tourism minister appointed last week has now stepped down, and a new chairman of the national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines was appointed on Tuesday only to be replaced the following day.

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