Asian Mirror in Conversation with Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA)

6th August, 2020 News and Updates

Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism recently sat down with Larry Enas for Asian Mirror to talk about all things tourism, and particularly restarting tourism post the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tourism Alliance has put together a fact sheet on the key take outs from the discussion.

  1. Sri Lanka Tourism is made up of 4 institutes namely Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB) and the Hotel school. Plans are in place to merge all these institutions (apart from the Hotel School) through a new act under the banner of Sri Lanka Tourism.
  2. Airport reopening which was scheduled for the 1st of August has been pushed back due to the following reasons;
    1. Government has decided to prioritise the repatriation of the 52,000+ Sri Lankans who are currently overseas wishing to return back to Sri Lanka
    2. The existing limitations on the number of PCR tests that can be done at any given time
    3. The containment and management of the newly identified COVID-19 cluster
    4. Global scenario which has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks with several countries experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
      The final decision on Airport reopening will be done by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and health officials based on an assessment of the above factors.
  3. In preparing to reopen, Sri Lanka Tourism has;
    1. Drafted detailed guidelines for the accommodation sector to follow covering all aspects such as buffets, banquets, housekeeping, staff etc
    2. Through a tender process Sri Lanka Tourism has also selected an international audit firm to carry out an audit of accommodation providers to ensure compliance with the guidelines introduced by Sri Lanka Tourism
    3. Accommodation providers wishing to take bookings must apply and be certified as COVID safe prior to taking any bookings.
    4. Final approval will be done by the Ministry of Health (MoH)
  4. Sri Lanka Tourism has been working closely with the Ministry of Health (MoH), Immigration, Airport Aviation Services and Civil Aviation Authority in mapping out the process to ensure the safety of Foreign visitors as well as Sri Lankan citizens once the Airport is reopened and Sri Lanka is ready to welcome foreign visitors.
    1. All foreign visitors must apply for a visa online.
    2. Foreign visitors will only be allowed to stay in COVID-19 safety compliant accommodation. Proof of booking and payment will need to be submitted along with the visa application.
    3. COVID-19 insurance will be mandatory for all foreign visitors
    4. Upon arrival a PCR test will be done at the Airport or in the vicinity of the Airport
    5. Once an all clear is obtained on the PCR test the first accommodation provider will be responsible to arrange transport to the hotel/resort. Foreign visitors will not be permitted to use public transportation.
    6. A second PCR test will be conducted between the 5th and 7th day, using a mobile unit under the purview of the Ministry of Health (MoH).
    7. A third PCR test which was initially scheduled to be carried out between the 10th and 12th day will be carried out only if required, as determined by the Ministry of Health (MoH)
    8. In the unfortunate event of a foreign visitor being identified as COVID-19 positive protocols are inplace to send them to quarantine at a designated hotel or a selected hospital.
    9. All of the above information will be provided to visitors at the time of visa application.
  5. Sri Lanka Tourism is in the midst of developing a Tourism App, the first version of which will cover all information related to COVID-19 protocols and procedures. The updated version which was already in development prior to COVID-19 has drawn inspiration from well rated travel apps from around the world and will incorporate many sites and features offering benefits to foreign visitors from purchasing of tickets to see cultural attractions to booking of public transportation to choosing tour guides to name a few. The app will also enable users to provide feedback on the quality of service and identify areas for improvement. The app is expected to be completed in the near future.
  6. Sri Lanka tourism will also be focussing on the SME sector and revamping the registration process enabling more SME’s to join SLTDA. Sri Lanka tourism will work closely with the SME’s to ensure improved standards are maintained while also providing training on digital marketing and promotions and facilitate negotiations with the OTA’s for better rates.
  7. The government, through a cabinet paper has also approved the following relief measures for the formal sector;
    1. Accommodation providers and travel agents will be granted a loan of 4% interest to pay salaries of Rs.20,000/- per person per month for a period of 6 months. The loan will be granted for 5 years with a 2 year grace period..
    2. Restaurants, tourist friendly eating places, wellness centers etc will be granted a loan package to be put towards payment of salaries of Rs.15,000/- per person per month for a period of 6 months
    3. A one off payment to tour guides and tourist drivers of Rs.20,000/- and Rs.15,000/- respectively
    4. A one year grace period for tourism related vehicle leases
    5. Only the formal sector registered with the SLTDA will be able to benefit from the government relief packages
  8. Sri Lanka tourism will focus on developing the following areas in the future
    1. Wellness tourism and the promotion of Sri Lankan indigineous medicine and hela wedakama
    2. Film tourism with India, Russia and the UK showing keen interest in Sri Lanka.
    3. Development of Water based sports and activities

The Future
COVID-19 has presented Sri Lanka with a great opportunity to reset the tourism industry. Sri Lanka tourism is taking this time to really focus on better engagement with the informal sector, collaboration with other ministries and academics to implement the government’s detailed manifesto action plan to propel Sri Lanka tourism to greater heights post the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Asian Mirror