Sunday, September 25, 2022
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Over 30 per cent drop in tourist traffic

By Sunimalee Dias

Sri Lanka’s dollar crisis has led the economy to depend on tourism to resolve the issue but irrespective of what lengths the authorities take to welcome holidaymakers, they are not filling the rooms. The industry believes there will be a 30 per cent drop this season compared to previous expectations.

Newly-elected Tourist Hotels Association President M. Shanthikumar told the Business Times on Thursday that the season’s traffic has seen a number of bookings getting cancelled as a result of which they expect over a 30 per cent drop due to the Omicron variant spreading fast in Europe.

Though there has been a slight improvement, arrivals are still “very poor”, he noted adding that however, if there are no travel restrictions in place in the different markets the industry expects the sector will grow next year.

Sri Lanka opened its borders and relaxed the rules for tourists visiting the island as a double vaccinated traveller need not go through a COVID-19 test on arrival at the airport.

Mr. Shanthikumar echoed a dire need of the industry that still wants the moratoriums on their loans extended and no additional taxes imposed as stated in the budget.

The dollar crunch seems to creep into the tourism industry as the industry is now finding it difficult to open Letters of Credit (LCs) to make dollar purchases for various needs in the hotel sector. “When hoteliers want to import items there is a severe delay in getting approvals,” Mr. Shanthikumar explained.

“But the burning issue now is we need marketing for promotions,” he said as the industry hopes to sell the destination when the travel fairs and other destination promotion campaigns kick off next year, long awaited by the industry.

In this respect, Mr. Shanthikumar wants the government to ensure that a certain amount of foreign exchange is allocated to the industry to ensure the smooth flow of operations.

NKar Travels Managing Director Nilmin Nanayakkara told the Business Times that they had realized only about 7 per cent of their pre-COVID-19 business by December. However, in the next three months they are likely to increase by 20 per cent.

Given the industry’s need to stay afloat, he noted that even with new variants they are positive they will remain open. Though cancellations are on from European travellers, Mr. Nanayakkara explained that however these same people will be holidaying elsewhere on short haul travel. The uncertainty of a possible lockdown in Europe is creating a problem for tourists as the number of Omicron cases there surge.

“The industry has already bounced back and now it’s a continuation of recovery and I don’t see it going back – I’m very confident they will manage it somehow,” he said.

Sunday Times

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