The country’s travel and tourism sector stakeholders yesterday welcomed the move by the health authorities in removing the COVID-19 protocols for tourists as the step will help increase the appeal of the destination.
The tourism industry was lobbying for the relaxing of the health protocols that were put in place by the Health Ministry to contain the spread of the virus that brought the global economy to a standstill for several months.
However, since the beginning of this year, several countries removed COVID-19 restrictions to uplift the hard-hit tourism sector.
“This will enable tourists to travel freely and without inconvenience, across borders. We were probably the only country requiring this certificate as of late as all other countries relaxed or removed COVID restrictions several months back,” said Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO).
However, while the government has taken a progressive step to assist the tourist sector towards revival, some of its recent efforts have made it difficult for the stakeholders to promote the destination. Once such a move is the sudden increase of the visa fee, which was implemented without any prior notice.
SLAITO pointed out that at a time when the industry is working hard to kick start tourism and looking at ways to promote the island nation, the decision taken by the government in this regard is a major setback. Further, entry fees to wildlife parks have also been increased without any prior warning or discussion with the industry.
Another hit the Industry currently faces, according to SLAITO, is the Central Cultural Fund converting the US dollar entry fee to sites at Rs. 372 per dollar. SLAITO pointed out that the Central Bank conversion rate applicable for inward forex receipts is between Rs.360 to Rs.362 per dollar. “This difference in exchange rate, causes a loss of approximately Rs.300 on each Sigiriya entry ticket alone. We ask, if it is correct, for a government department to convert the US dollar at a much higher rate than what is published by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka,” SLAITO questioned. The association asserted the need to take measures that are well-thought-out so that the tourism sector is not negatively impacted in any way going forward.