Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the ministry secretary are currently in Fiji to attend the 52nd Asian Development Bank General Assembly and are in the process of updating the foreign finance ministers and the media regarding the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.
The Minister, during a media interview with Bloomberg at the end of the conference said that requests have been made from the government to provide tax concessions to the hotels that were affected by the bombings and those engaged in the tourism industry.
“With the right kind of action, I would say tourism could bounce back to normalcy within a short period of one to one and a half years,” he said. That’s been the experience in destinations such as Tunisia and Bali, which faced similar attacks in the past, he added.
“For almost ten years after the war the tourism industry showed great progress. It gave the country’s economy a boost. The biggest challenge is the risk of further attacks. We are committed to ensure that such a situation does not arise. The country’s economy is slowly recovering,” Finance Minister Samaraweera said.
Meanwhile, BBC reported that the highest tourism arrivals was recorded last year, based on Central Bank data. In 2018 the number of tourist arrivals stood at 2,333,796, which is a 10.3% increase.
Tourism accounts for 5% of the country’s national income, while the majority of tourists were from India, China and the UK.
However, the UK and several other countries have warned their citizens not to visit Sri Lanka unless for an urgent requirement.
'Lonely Planet' Index:
Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka as the best country to visit during 2019, at the end of 2018.
Lonely Planet is considered the world’s best tourist guide magazine and it annually names the best tourist destinations worldwide annually.
What prompted them to name Sri Lanka as the best tourist destination was the new tourist lodges, best transport system and the increasing tourism activities.
Impact of the October 26th conspiracy:
However, the political conspiracy on October 26 impacted adversely on the tourism industry in the country.
Those engaged in the tourism industry had told BBC that this incident had created political and economic instability in the country.
With the appointing of a new Prime Minister on October 26 and ousting the current Prime Minister, it led to instability and uncertainty in the country.
The hoteliers claim that due to that situation, the tourist arrivals had dropped by around 20%-35%.
Stand of the hoteliers today:
Hoteliers in the Aluthgama area had told the BBC that with the Easter Sunday bombings the small scale hoteliers are facing a dire situation.
According to Ranjith de Silva, a small scale hotelier, he had 22 cancellations after the bombings. “At the time of the bombings there were eight tourists but they panicked when they heard that foreigners had been killed. Six of them left earlier than planned and at the time around 30 tourists were scheduled to arrive.”
“This situation is far more serious than the Tsunami as this directly impacts on the tourism industry. The small scale tourist operators are the worst affected,” he said.
"However, the silver lining in this dark cloud is the fact that some tourists have said they would visit despite the bombings. This is good news. During the LTTE there were bombings etc but one thing is that they never targeted religious institutions and they never targeted the foreigners,” said Saman Kumara.
German couple Mike and Neef who had arrived in the country a few days prior to the attack were relaxing by the pool undisturbed by the attacks. When approached about the situation in the country, they said that there is no guarantee that these attacks would not take place in any other part of the world.
However Neef said it was sad that such a tragedy had affected such a beautiful country as Sri Lanka.