Sri Lanka specialists ‘cautiously optimistic’ despite FCDO advisory

Specialist Sri Lanka tour operators remain “cautiously optimistic” about the summer despite the latest government advisory against travel to the country.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advised against all but essential travel on Friday due to economic and political instability, prompting Tui to cancel all holidays to the destination.

Experience Travel Group and Travel Gallery, both members of The Specialist Travel Association (Aito) and specialists in the island country, issued a joint statement which stated that the latest advisory was “not yet a disaster for Sri Lankan tourism” because it was currently the low season. The summer season starts in July.

More: Tui cancels Sri Lanka holidays after change in FCDO travel advice

They said they understood the FCDO was left with little choice but urged for a review of the advice as soon as possible.

The statement said: “Following a really positive start to the year for Sri Lanka, arrivals will have naturally fallen anyway from mid-April onwards.

“We see no reason why the FCDO cannot quickly change its advice once a measure of political stability has returned during the second half of May.”

The operators stressed the FCDO advice was only relevant to immediate departures, adding: “We are cautiously optimistic for summer.”

Protests in Sri Lanka, which have been ongoing since the start of the year, have been “overwhelmingly peaceful and positive” with clients unaffected by fuel shortages and “made very welcome”, according to the operators.

There are also signs of political stability returning to the country following the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on May 12 and agreed constitutional reforms, they claimed.

“There seems to be a tentative route out of the crisis for the first time since it began in January. The curfews are now limited and we anticipate the lifting of the state of emergency will follow shortly,” the operators said in their joint statement.

But they also warned Sri Lanka faced a “long road to economic recovery”, with tourism a “crucial driver” in that recovery.

The lack of tourism during the pandemic has contributed to the current crisis and they urged the UK travel trade to support the destination to recover, providing it was safe for travellers to visit.

The country will also be “great value for overseas visitors” once the advice changes, they predicted, following the depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar.


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