Sri Lanka witnesses busy times once again

Published on : Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sri Lanka, once desolate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is busy once again.

Foreign tourists, who contribute significantly to the country’s economy can be witnessed again. A tourism hotspot offering surf, sun, sand, cool hinterlands, and UNESCO-protected sites of cultural and architectural significance, Sri Lanka depends a lot on visitors, who before the pandemic accounted for about $5 billion of foreign exchange earnings, or almost 5 percent of gross domestic product.

Consecutive COVID-19 lockdowns since March 2020 made tourism come to a complete halt, depriving thousands of people of their livelihoods. Crushed by an economic crisis due to falling foreign reserves and increasing foreign debt, Sri Lanka is looking forward torecover the tourism industry, with a target of making this year the “Visit Sri Lanka Year” and generating $10 billion from the sector by 2025.

The good news is that January has proven that Sri Lanka may be on its route to meet the target. Close to 30,000 people have arrived in the country in the first 10 days of 2022, mostly from Russia, India, Ukraine, the UK and Germany, despite global fears regarding spread of the new, highly contagious Omicron variant.

“In Europe, there is a thought process of relaxing and dealing with the virus,” said Kimarli Fernando, chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

Fernandosaid, “EU countries treat COVID-19 like the flu, suggest people get used to living with it, and treat the virus as an endemic disease. So, this will not pose a problem.”

She said that the tourism authority is expecting to see about 1 million tourists visiting Sri Lanka this year — which is half the number of visitors in 2018, which was Sri Lanka’s best year in terms of tourism arrivals.

“I am absolutely confident we will reach these numbers,” Fernando said, dismissing fears that the emergence of Omicron could force the island nation back into lockdown. “We don’t see a potential for a lockdown at all.”

Almost 63 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are fully vaccinated, with tourism workers receiving jabs on priority basis.

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