COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Thursday reopened its borders to foreign tourists after a 10-month pandemic closure, with travelers being asked to cooperate with strict COVID-19 guidelines.
Full operations have resumed at the country’s two international airports: Bandaranaike International Airport near Colombo and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in the south of the island.
Tourists must have a coronavirus test in their country 72 hours prior to their flight and then again seven days after they arrive at their Sri Lanka hotel. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) said 54 hotels have been allocated to accommodate incoming visitors.
“We need the cooperation of both the tourists and the locals to improve this industry,” Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunge said at a reopening ceremony on Thursday.
The first batch of travelers – comprising tourists and migrant workers – arrived in Colombo on an Oman Air flight on Thursday morning.
There were also commercial flights from SriLankan Airlines to and from the Maldives, Pakistan and Bahrain, Dr. Sumith De Silva, the head of marketing at Sri Lanka Airports, told Arab News.
The visa fee for citizens from nations in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is $25 and it is $35 for travelers from other countries. Each tourist will have to pay $12 for mandatory health insurance.
Tourism workers in Sri Lanka have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“At present there are around 3 million people who are in the tourism industry in this country who are affected due to COVID-19 since last March,” Cabinet spokesman Udaya Gammanpila said at a media briefing.
The coronavirus outbreak dealt another severe blow to the sector following the bombings that shook the country during Easter 2019.
According to the SLTDA, 2.3 million tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2018 and this number dropped to 1.9 million following the 2019 attacks.
A. M. Jaufer, president of the Chamber of Tourism and Industry, told Arab News that Sri Lanka had earned $4.3 billion from tourism in 2018, but this revenue dropped to $2.9 billion in 2019. It plunged to zero when the pandemic hit the country.
The pandemic had had a “crippling effect on the industry,” he said, adding there was optimism that the reopening of airports would help the industry “return to normalcy” during the coming months.
Source – ARAB NEWS –