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Travel industry news

23 Apr 2019

BY James Chapple

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Sri Lanka: FCO urges caution but stops short of travel ban following deadly blasts

The Foreign Office has stopped short of issuing a ban on travel to Sri Lanka after more than 300 people, including “at least” eight Britons, were killed in a series of bombings at the weekend.

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Sri Lanka: FCO urges caution but stops short of Brit travel ban

A fresh state of emergency has been imposed across Sri Lanka, while tourists have been told by the FCO to follow the instructions of the local authorities as well as their hotel or tour operator.


The attacks on Sunday (21 April), which are understood to have been suicide bombings, focused primarily on churches and hotels, including Colombo’s Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand.


As of Tuesday morning (23 April), authorities in Sri Lanka believe more than 310 people were killed and more than 500 wounded. The BBC reports some 40 people have been detained in connection with the eight attacks, citing a police spokesperson.


A curfew is in operation and the Sri Lankan government has placed curbs on social media networks.


The latest advice from the FCO urges any Britons in Sri Lanka to make contact with family and friends to let them know they are safe. Anyone directly affected by the attacks should contact the British High Commission in Colombo.


“Security has been stepped up across the island and there are ongoing security operations,” said the FCO. “These may continue for a number of days and the situation remains dynamic.


“Please follow advice of local security authorities, hotel security staff and your tour company. The airport is operating, but with increased security checks and long queues for taxi pick-ups.


“Some airlines are advising their passengers to arrive early for check-in, in light of increased security screening. You should check with your airline about suggested check-in times.


“The Sri Lankan authorities have declared a nationwide curfew. You should limit movements until this has been lifted, following the instructions of the local authorities and your hotel/tour operator.”


Measures have also been put in place to allow passengers to travel to and from the airport so long as they have a valid ticket for travel that day and a passport.

 

Operators issue guidance and reassurance

Sri Lanka’s ministry of foreign affairs said it had identified 31 foreign national among the dead, with a further 14 still yet to be accounted for.


The UK government has said there are “at least” eight Britons among the dead, two of whom held joint-US citizenship, the Sri Lankan authorities added.


Abta has issued its own guidance following the attacks, urging British travellers to follow the advice of the FCO, the Sri Lankan security authorities and hotels, while avoiding large gatherings.


Customers due to travel to Sri Lanka imminently should check with the FCO for updates. “While the Foreign Office hasn’t put any travel restrictions to Sri Lanka in place, meaning normal booking conditions would apply if customers no longer wish to travel, travel companies’ policies will vary, depending on specific circumstances,” said Abta.


“Some Abta members are offering customers who are due to travel imminently the opportunity to change their booking, should they wish to do so. Travellers should contact their travel company to discuss their cancellation policies, and the options available.”


If Only, Gold Medal, Travel 2, Wendy Wu Tours, Kuoni and G Adventures have all issued their own guidance too, and reassurances that their customers and ground staff are all believed to be safe and well.

 

Wendy Wu confirmed it had one group tour in Sri Lanka and three tailor-made bookings at the time of the attacks.

 

Global sales director John Warr said all guests were accounted for. “We’re extremely thankful no one on our tour or any of our tailor made passengers were affected, and our ground staff are all safe and sound,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to victims and the people of Sri Lanka.”

 

G Adventures said it had 116 passengers across eight groups in the country, all of whom were safe and accounted for, while all its trips have been re-routed to avoid Colombo. The operator’s team in Sri Lanka is monitoring the situation and will alter or cancel itineraries if necessary.

 

“Any travellers with future bookings who wish to postpone their tour to a later date, they can do so with no change fees,” said the operator. “Travellers with questions regarding upcoming travel arrangements can also contact their travel agent or our sales team.”


Lisa McAuley, managing director Gold Medal Travel 2, said: “Reflecting as we prepare to travel home from our family holiday; the devastation caused to others innocently caught up in the horror of the Sri Lanka attacks. Fortunate to have visited this beautiful island a few years ago and hold nothing but fond memories.”


Dan Gathercole, managing director First Class Holidays, added: “As a family, we went to Sri Lanka last year and the people were amazing. It’s devastating to see what’s happened to a country already trying to get back on its feet after the tsunami. Very very sad.”

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