Extension of emergency in Sri Lanka to further woes of tourism sector: industry associations

PTI | Colombo | Updated: 28-07-2022 15:12 IST | Created: 28-07-2022 15:12 IST
Extension of emergency in Sri Lanka to further woes of tourism sector: industry associations
  • Country:
  • Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Parliament's nod to the state of emergency declared by President Ranil Wickremesinghe will hit the crisis-hit island nation's tourism industry even harder, according to leading industry associations.

On Wednesday, Sri Lanka's 225-member Parliament voted 120-63 to extend the state of emergency for a month until August 14, which gives the president the power to make regulations in the interest of public security and order.

Reacting to the government's move, the Sri Lankan Hotels Association (THASL) President M Shanthikumar said it will further hit the vulnerable tourism industry that is expected to bring in the much needed foreign exchange to Sri Lanka as more countries could slap travel bans on the country already reeling under acute shortage of basic necessities such as fuel, food, as well as essential medicines.

Merely the proclamation of emergency was bad enough to hit the sector hard and the decision to continue with it was an extremely negative signal, the Daily Mirror newspaper quoted Shanthikumar as saying on Thursday.

“Arrivals to the country will further drop in the coming weeks and months. We cannot promote or sell a destination when a state of emergency is imposed. This is well known. It is going to get tougher for us as we go forward,” Shanthikumar said.

He stated that the tourism sector stakeholders were of the view that President Wickremesinghe would lift the state of emergency without much delay.

Wickremesinghe declared the state of emergency on July 13 while serving as the debt-ridden country's acting President amidst unprecedented protests against the government which led to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing the country and then resigning from the post.

Similar sentiments were reflected by the Sri Lanka Association of Tourism Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) which said the decision would negatively impact on tourist arrivals in the bankrupt country.

The SLAITO said that more governments would issue travel advisories against Sri Lanka and it was nearly impossible to remove the advisories that are already in place.

“It just gets worse. With travel advisories issued against the nation, tourists do not feel safe coming in. Also, making matters worse is that insurance companies are not keen to offer travel insurance policies in nations with emergency imposed. Even if they do, the policies are very expensive. This doesn’t augur well for us,” said SLAITO President Mahen Kariyawasam.

Tourism, the third largest source of revenue for the island nation, accounted for more than 5 per cent of Sri Lanka's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with Britain, India and China being the main markets, when the industry was at its peak in 2018.

A series of back-to-back crises over the last few years, including the coronavirus pandemic and the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attacks, has brought Sri Lanka’s tourist-dependent economy to a halt as the country shut its borders and imposed lockdowns and curfews.

Tourism earned Sri Lanka USD 4.4 billion and contributed 5.6 per cent to GDP in 2018, but this dropped to just 0.8 per cent in 2020.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.

Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

Sri Lanka needs about USD 5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power cuts.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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