The travel industry is ready to resume operations in Sri Lanka – that was the message from operators and hoteliers after the Foreign Office said it was safe for tourists to return to the island.
The FCO moved promptly to advise against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka following a series of bombings targeting hotels and churches on Easter Sunday, which claimed more than 250 lives.
However, the effective travel ban was lifted on Thursday (6 June), albeit with the caveat that tourists should remain vigilant to the threat of terrorism and be aware of possible curfews.
It came after a handful of governments across mainland European revised their travel advice for Sri Lanka over the past fortnight.
Aito chairman Derek Moore praised the efforts of the Sri Lankan people to lobby for the resumption of visits from UK tourists. “I know that Aito members, and the UK travel industry as a whole, will be very happy indeed to send their customers to this gem of an island again.
“When a destination so popular with members’ customers suffers an incident, as Sri Lanka has, this is the time for us to show our support for the people in the destination by travelling there, rather than turning our backs on them.”
Sam Clark, co-founder of Asia specialist Experience Travel Group, said the trade could now get on with “showing the world what a wonderful and welcoming destination Sri Lanka is”. “We thank the many clients who waited to see how the situation settled and have decided to support Sri Lanka by continuing to travel.
“Brits are resilient travellers, and their ongoing support for Sri Lanka reflects the deep affection travellers have for the country, its people and its world-class tourism offering.”
Abta said the decision came as welcome news to members with Sri Lanka programmes, customers due to travel to the island and the people of Sri Lanka, “many of whose livelihoods are dependent on visitors from the UK”.
Kerry Golds, managing director of Abercrombie & Kent, said now was the time to support the people of Sri Lanka. “Tourism is a big part of their economy and the FCO update is only good news for the Sri Lankan people,” she said, adding A&K’s staff in Sri Lanka were on hand to assist anyone still cautious about travelling to the country.
Kuoni welcomed the news, stressing all customers already booked to travel to Sri Lanka would be able to go ahead with their holidays as planned, adding the country would go back on sale on Friday (7 June).
“Sri Lanka is a destination we love and it has so much to offer,” said a Kuoni spokesperson. “We have many close colleagues and friends there, and we’ll be working with them over the coming days and weeks ahead to talk about what we can do in partnership to rebuild confidence in the destination.”
Andy Freeth, chief executive of If Only, said: “I’m delighted the Sri Lanka travel advice has been updated and now hope consumer confidence rises and local businesses can once again prosper. We will continue to promote, market and sell this wonderful destination.”
Malik Fernando, owner of Resplendent Ceylon, added: “Tourism is a large part of our economy, supporting one in 10 families in Sri Lanka, so the FCO update is excellent news. We have a close connection with the UK as one our biggest inbound markets and look forward to welcoming visitors back with open arms.
“We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support over the past month and have no doubt that a bright and peaceful future lies ahead.”