A Delhi family flew to Sri Lanka last month for a destination wedding in Colombo. Along with clothes, gifts and jewellery, they carried meals for guests on a Vistara Airbus A320 aircraft to avoid a crisis in the island battling food and fuel shortages.
Sri Lanka is a popular destination among Indian tourists, but they are rethinking their plans to visit the nation that on Saturday evening imposed a countrywide curfew starting Saturday evening until Monday morning in an attempt to prevent more protests against an economic crisis. Sri Lanka’s president had declared a state of emergency before that.
Five star hotels in Colombo are recording cancellations and deferrals from group travellers, said an industry executive. Airlines and travel companies are seeing sluggish demand as customers prefer to wait and watch.
“We are witnessing lower bookings to Colombo due to the ongoing crisis. We are continuously monitoring the impact and may take appropriate action to adjust the capacity based on the demand and situation in Sri Lanka,” said a statement by IndiGo, the Indian low-budget carrier. An Air India spokesperson said its flights from Delhi and Chennai to Colombo are operating as per schedule.
“We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation together with our local partners and keeping our customers updated. Currently, while we have observed a slowdown, we are yet to receive cancellations for the destination,” said Daniel D’Souza, president & country head (Holidays), SOTC Travel.
Indians topped the island’s tourist arrivals in 2021 with over 56,000 visitors. Tourism picked up in February after Sri Lanka resumed visa-on-arrival facilities for foreign tourists, including those from India. Hotel bookings for April have been strong as people plan trips for conferences and weddings. The country’s emergency measures threaten such travel plans though.
“Sri Lanka is a resilient country. It has fought back against terrorism and Covid-19 pandemic. We hope this current crisis passes quickly,” said a Sri Lankan hotelier.
India shipped an additional 40,000 metric tonnes of diesel on Saturday to Sri Lanka, adding to its support after extending $ one billion credit line to the country. Some within Sri Lanka believe that sporadic incidents have got undue media attention and that is affecting tourism. “It is not as if the entire country is shut and there is no food to eat,” said Sri Lanka India society president Kishore Reddy.
The declaration of emergency has travel agents worried. “We have asked for clarity when the emergency measures would be lifted,” said Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India, which is hosting a convention in Sri Lanka later this month.
“Leisure bookings to Sri Lanka have been impacted due to the recent developments however, the cancellation rate remains low as of now. To ensure safety of travellers visiting Sri Lanka in the near future, our teams are working round-the-clock to keep travellers abreast with latest developments including travel guidelines and standard travel protocols. We have also extended the option for a no-cost change of destination–depending on the travellers’ convenience,” said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group chief executive officer of MakeMyTrip.