A day after the Sri Lanka blasts, the travel trade on Monday got busy reworking itineraries and reaching out to worried customers scheduled to travel to the island nation in the days to come, while helping those stranded there make a safe return at the earliest.
Data showed a 41% increase in cancellation of departure bookings for Sri Lanka from April 21 to 27. That Colombo was a top pick for cities like Bengaluru, this Easter weekend showed from the death of five Indians in the deadly blasts that claimed 290 lives and injured several more.
The five were a part of a seven-member group of the Janata Dal (Secular), from Karnataka. The other two are feared missing. The group was on an outing for the long weekend, after voting took place in Karnataka on May 18.
An External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson said that the government was making all efforts to help stranded Indians.
While travel operators acknowledged that panic had set in, they were still hopeful that the overall impact of tourism to Sri Lanka would remain short-lived. According to them, Sri Lanka has become a popular destination for meetings and conference tours especially after GST was introduced in India, making such events costlier. The island nation had also became a preferred tourist destination after floods caused damage in Kerala last August. In 2018, a total of 3,97,985 lakh Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka as against 3,84,628 lakh in 2017, information from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said.
“Sri Lanka has been a popular choice amongst Indian travellers seeking a quick international getaway, especially during long weekends. Following the attacks, we have seen a 17% dip in enquiring customers for the country. We anticipate current unrest in the region will lead to a temporary slowdown in tourist inflow to Sri Lanka,” Aloke Bajpai, CEO and Co-founder, ixigo said.
As per the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Indian tourists look forward to luxury holidays, beach resorts, casinos and hill stations apart from Ramayana and Buddhist tourist circuits in Sri Lanka. By marketing the Ramayana circuit, Sri Lanka was aiming at attracting 1 million mark in 2019.
Mahesh Iyer, executive director, and CEO — Thomas Cook India said that its customers currently on tour in Sri Lanka were all safe and accounted for and that they were in constant touch to reassure them and ensure their safe passage to India. “Our central Tour Management team is in continuous coordination with our offices on ground, our partners, local authorities and tour managers in Sri Lanka to closely monitor the ongoing situation and will keep our customers informed with regular updates,” he said.
For future departures, basis updates and requests from our booked customers, Thomas Cook said it would accordingly offer best options; to either defer their travel, or provide best alternate destinations basis availability, visas/documentation and pricing. For our customers who prefer to cancel, we will provide a travel voucher, thus enabling them to reschedule at a time of their choosing.
SOTC travel president and country head, leisure, Daniel D’Souza said they were monitoring the situation and that safety was its foremost priority.
“At this point of time, Sri Lanka is among the leading summer destinations as per our 2019 summer travel report. With the unfortunate incident, travel will be affected but hopefully the situation will be addressed quickly and impact on travel will be short-lived and the country will again feature in the list of popular destinations,” Balu Ramchandran, head of air and distribution, Cleartrip said.