Daily Dhaka Times: Sri Lanka’s virus-battered tourism industry can reopen for foreign guests from 1 August but under strict guidelines, including multiple coronavirus tests during their stay, officials said Saturday.
Tourism was only just recovering from the effects of last year’s Easter Sunday bombings that killed 279 people, including 45 foreigners, when the virus halted international travel to the island and forced hotels to shut, leaving tens of thousands of people jobless.
Sri Lanka’s tourism ministry said travelers will be able to visit from August 1, but they must carry a COVID-19 free certificate issued not earlier than 72 hours before boarding.
Even with this document, tourists will have to take a virus test at the airport upon arrival. A further check will be done four to five days later — and a third if staying for more than 10 days.
“While this may be inconvenient it is essential to safeguard everybody and provide peace of mind,” the ministry said.
The regular visa fee of $40 has been increased to $100, visitors can only stay in hotels designated by the ministry, and are not allowed to use public transport on the island.
In addition, only those who will spend a minimum of five days in Sri Lanka will be allowed in.
The country has reported 11 deaths and 1,801 infections since its first coronavirus patient was identified on January 27.
The number of visitors to Sri Lanka dropped to 1.91 million last year, down from 2.33 million in the previous year.
Sri Lanka’s economy hit by COVID-19
The new guidelines by the tourism ministry come after the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis dented Sri Lanka’s economy. According to a media report, the pandemic has caused a steep fall in the earnings from tourism, remittances, and outflow of foreign investment.
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka reportedly said that country is facing the worst financial crisis in its history due to the economic and travel curbs imposed after the outbreak.
As per reports, the COVID-19 outbreak severely impacted the tourism sector, with a drop of tourist arrivals by over 70 percent year-on-year in March. Sri Lanka’s tourism accounts for about five percent of the economy, with Britain, India, and China the main markets.
However, the number of international tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka declined in March 2020 by 70.8 percent in comparison to a year ago.