Travellers to Sri Lanka will be welcomed “with open arms” and will be “engulfed with genuine warmth”, according to Malik Fernando, managing director of hotel brand Resplendent Ceylon.
Sri Lanka has battled a political and financial crisis in recent months, but operators are now able to resume trips to the island after the UK Foreign Office lifted its advice against all non-essential travel to the country on 26 August.
Malik Fernando, managing director of Resplendent Ceylon, said the business was “delighted” the advice had been lifted. He added: “Rebuilding the country’s tourism industry is now more important than ever in order to bring the island back to life after a tough few months. It was heart-warming to receive the good wishes of traveller friends from around the world.”
Resplendent Ceylon’s boutique properties include the tea bungalow resort Tea Trails, the tented camp Wild Coast Tented Lodge in Yala national park and clifftop resort Cape Weligama on the south coast.
To help agents promote Sri Lanka, Fernando has shared the following advice:
What is the situation like on the ground?
“Since the unrest and serious shortages of a couple of months ago, stability has returned, and economic recovery plans are underway, led by the new president. A stabilisation plan was agreed with the International Monetary Fund and travel advisories from key markets have been relaxed.
“Now is a brilliant time to travel to Sri Lanka as we move into what is usually our peak season; the island is uncrowded and those in the industry are ready and waiting to welcome everyone with open arms in the hospitable manner that our island is renowned for.”
What impact is the country’s economic crisis having on tourists?
“A tourist can experience a normal holiday. All sites are open and not busy so it can be a better experience than usual! The devaluation of the local currency means extra value for money.”
What should tourists be aware of if they are travelling?
“Tourists were never at risk amongst warm and hospitable Sri Lankans although the headlines seemed worrying. Resplendent Ceylon and other hotels operated normally throughout. The fuel situation is much improved; hotels and travel agents have had preferential access. An important aspect is that visiting Sri Lanka plays a vital role in our economic revival. And you will be engulfed with genuine warmth!”
How damaging has a drop in tourism been for the country?
“The growth in tourism over the past few years uplifted communities across the country, and 15% of the population relies on the industry. The loss of tourism income on the back of major cost of living increases has been devastating. Drivers, guides, and local vendors have been the worst affected. A decent winter will help them get back on their feet.”
How has hotel occupancy been?
“August is usually the high season with the summer holidays. This year occupancies have been awful, at 10% to 20%. With the lifting of the advisories, bookings have started picking up.”
Why is it more important than ever that tourists visit now?
“Tourism brings in foreign currency which Sri Lanka is short of. It results in rapid distribution of benefits to all levels of rural communities – hotel staff, local vendors, guides, drivers. Foreign visitors can enjoy a perfectly normal, memorable holiday whilst making a critical contribution to our recovery.
“Sri Lanka may be a small island, but it packs in a continent’s worth of attractions, with eight Unesco World Heritage sites, all within a few hours of each other. The Ceylon tea highlands, the Cultural Triangle, a cradle of an ancient Buddhist Civilisation. And probably the best wildlife parks outside Africa with leopards, elephants, bears, and blue whales offshore. Not forgetting tropical sandy beaches, surfing, and Ceylon blue sapphires, which adorned the crowns of royalty for centuries.”