Sri Lanka is set to receive its first group of post-pandemic Chinese tourists after becoming one of the first 20 countries to resume the organization of outbound group tourists from China since COVID-19.
Their flight will depart from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport on March 3.
“We are expecting Chinese tourists to come back soon, but their particular interest has been to countries closer to China,” Anura Fernando, the consul general of Sri Lanka in Shanghai, said during an interview with China Daily about the country’s eagerness to receive more tourists from China.
As soon as the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced the decision to allow travel agencies to resume booking groups to travel to 20 countries and regions on Feb 6, the Sri Lanka consul general began to work closely with travel agencies and other partners to reopen direct flights between Shanghai and Colombo, its capital city.
With its tropical climate, as well as rich and diverse cultural heritage, Sri Lanka has been a popular destination for holidaymakers from around the world. In 2018, the country received a record number of 280,000 tourists from China.
“Since most Chinese haven’t traveled out of the country for three years, they are looking at closer destinations,” he says, adding “but I think Sri Lanka should be attractive to most Chinese tourists”.
He notes that the rich heritage of Buddhist culture, tea plantations, gem stones, as well as its natural beauty and water activities, are all appealing for Chinese tourists. Now that the pandemic is over, and Sri Lanka has emerged from the economic crisis, Fernando hopes that “this year tourists’ numbers will increase to about 1 million”.
China is the biggest trading partner of Sri Lanka and the largest source of foreign investments. With the signing of a free trade agreement expected to be made this year, Fernando believes the trade volume will increase between the two countries.
One of the first countries involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Sri Lanka has witnessed major projects constructed by China, such as the Port City in Colombo that kicked off in 2014. The construction process was slowed down because of the pandemic, and now that the Chinese workers are returning, he says the construction has restarted, with a new international financial center expected to be completed in the coming two years when it will start functioning.
Sri Lanka has a large Chinese community so “Chinese tourists are very much at home”, with Chinese restaurants and Chinese-speaking tour guides.
“We have a lot of cultural bonding,” Fernando says. “As much as we need the foreign currency, we also need more friendship with the Chinese people”.
From the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in 1973, to the Lotus Tower unveiled in 2019, China has helped construct monumental structures in Sri Lanka, which are evidence of the close ties between the two countries. This year marks the 20th anniversary of “sister cities” ties between Shanghai and Colombo, and the consul general hopes more cultural, tourism and business communication could enhance the friendship between Chinese and Sri Lankan people.
Source: China Daily