We are developing a specific mobile App to track all the tourists
In the aftermath of the Coronavirus outbreak, Sri Lanka has been following a cautious approach to reopening tourism. Paradise Island has implemented a new set of sanitation guidelines aimed at keeping everyone safe from the virus. While life on this paradise island has returned to some degree of normalcy, international travellers continue to be denied entry. We found out when they are likely to reopen and their long-term strategy to re-establish tourism in an exclusive interview with Chaminda Munasinghe, the Assistant Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Board.
To ease inbound tourism, the Sri Lanka Tourism Board is working hard to open the borders by mid-September, when the first visitors are expected. Sri Lanka will focus on a gradual increase in the number of tourists in order to maintain high service quality.
Q1: Sri Lanka was supposed to open on August 1st, but due to parliamentary elections, the plans were postponed. When can we expect the country to welcome international visitors? As of today, the government has not announced a specific date.
[Chaminda Munasinghe] The final decision will be taken in consultation with Health Authorities to assure the safety of the nation and tourists expected to visit. However, the entire Tourism Industry is looking forward to being opened soonest possible, hopefully somewhere between Mid-September to Mid-October. Due to the global instability, we are still analysing which countries to invite first to Sri Lanka. At present, the government is proffering priority to native Sri Lankans, expected to return to Sri Lanka anytime soon.
Q2: What will the new guidelines be for interested travellers, and will there be any inter-state travel restrictions? Are there any containment zones that must be avoided?
[Chaminda Munasinghe] At this moment, the country is completely stable against COVID Pandemic and anyone can travel in-between all 9 Provinces and 25 Districts without any issue. Domestic travel is fully functional. Sri Lanka Tourism has issued Tourism Operational Guidelines with Health Protocols and you can locate all the relevant information on the Sri Lanka Tourism Official’s web: Srilanka. travel. Any tourist can visit Sri Lanka by following the given simple set of guidelines.
As of 05th August 2020, the Sri Lanka government has successfully undertaken parliament election by following the health protocols with a total of 71% public participation without any COVID issue or contamination. The government has set up a “Special Presidential Task Force on COVID-19” to fight against the pandemic and there are specific quarantine centres island-wide within various locations to monitor and treat those who suspect to be infected. The government has also set up specialised hospitals to treat infected patients.
As of August 06th 2020: Total Confirmed cases 2,839, Deaths 11, Recovered & Discharged 2,541 and Suspected & Hospitalised 64.
Q3: What preventive measures will hotels and home stays take?
[Chaminda Munasinghe] All the precautions have been laid out step by step, in the Tourism Operational Guidelines with Health Protocols. From the moment of arrival to check-in to the hotels, to meals, to all other elements are covered by this set of guidelines implemented. A few major elements we have focused on within the guidelines are, continued sanitizing, making available common facilities to wash hands in all areas (before entering), checking body temperature, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks in all public and possible areas where a human engagement takes place.
We are also developing a specific Mobile App to track all the tourists who travel within the country and look after them; something new other than the general guidelines set up by the government.
Q4: Will you allow international travel from a select group of countries without having to go through the quarantine?
[Chaminda Munasinghe] As of now, there will be no quarantine required for International tourists when travelling to Sri Lanka. Also, there are no such countries limiting travel to Sri Lanka.
Q5: What has changed dramatically in Sri Lanka since this devastating blow, and what should we expect when we return to our favourite island nation?
[Chaminda Munasinghe] The complete Tourism and Hospitality sector has been streamlined, when it comes to the health guidelines. Yet, wonder and excitement await you. Despite following our COVID prevention guidelines, you will still be able to feel and experience beautiful Sri Lanka; maybe less crowded within popular tourism hot spots. You still will receive warm hospitality from locals and get to taste those mouth-watering Sri Lankan cuisines.
Q6: The travel community has been shaken by the pandemic. Most travellers will opt for short vacations until a vaccine is discovered; how is Sri Lanka planning to deal with this sudden shift in focus, and what are your plans for global tourism in the next five years?
[Chaminda Munasinghe] Currently, we have seen tremendous growth in our domestic tourism sector. Locals in all economic levels, regions tend to travel for short holidays and explore more nature-related lesser-known locations. This partially supports local tourism stakeholders to drive the industry without collapsing. However, it is clear it is not enough and we all expect immediate recovery soonest possible. As we have almost completed all the key steps to reopen the destination to welcome the international tourists, I believe, we will bounce back quickly.
Before the COVID pandemic, we have been working on a Global PR Campaign to promote Sri Lanka within key selected markets (India also included as a key source market) for 5 years, as a value for money destination, rather than another budget destination. With highly rich tourism product diversity compact into a small 65,000 square KM tropical island, we have all the elements to attract our target tourist segments. Also, being a small island nation all our resources are limited, and it will not be sustainable if we continue to follow mass tourism footfall.
“So, you will find more tourists with higher and more stable disposable incomes visiting Sri Lanka in the future as a destination, that they have dreamed of visiting one day. In my opinion, the current situation is a kind of strategic opportunity for Sri Lanka Tourism industry strength our sector and initiate new strategic plans to uplift tourism income generation by adding value to our tourism products, where tourists will really feel Sri Lanka value for money, instead of another budget holiday destination,” concluded Chaminda.