Sunday’s terror strikes in Sri Lanka – that is otherwise considered to be among the most popular tourist spots for Indians – have caused a huge dent in the country’s tourism prospects. But travel agents here are divided. While some say people are anxious to travel to the island nation, others say that there have been no cancellations.
Sri Lanka was declared the top destination for travel in 2019 by a well-known travel guide book publisher. The ongoing summer vacations in India would have meant a steady inflow of tourists to destinations like the island nation. Close to four lakh Indians had visited Sri Lanka in 2017, and this number is said to have gone up in 2018.
Koushik Varaghur, from Chariot World Tours, said they had tourists who were on tour in Sri Lanka at present, but were not in Colombo at the time of the blasts. “They will be returning to India on Wednesday. They were supposed to visit Colombo on the last day of the tour, but were diverted to other destinations,” he said.
Travel agents said Indian tourists are presently in other destinations such as Kandy, Bentota and Nuwara Eliya.
Mr. Varaghur added that people who had booked tours to Sri Lanka for the near future had shown ‘concern and fear’, but nobody had cancelled.
“We have people going this week as well. The tours are not just to Colombo. So we have not received any cancellations. However, those who have not booked but were looking at Sri Lanka as an option are shifting preference to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and other short-haul destinations,” he said.
Mr. Varaghur said for the past few years, Sri Lanka was among the top six destinations for Indians, along with Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. “It offers visa on arrival and is a destination that one can plan for at short notice. About 15% of travellers to Sri Lanka are last minute planners. Nearly 40% are those who are curious to see what’s in the neighbouring country. Around 20% are looking for a break or making a stopover at Sri Lanka, and the remaining are a mix of repeat customers or travellers interested in casinos, the Ramayana trail, and the like,” he said.
Karan Anand from Cox and Kings also said all their customers in Sri Lanka are continuing their tours. “Many of them will return tomorrow (Wednesday), while others will be back after a few days. They are safe and we are in touch with them. As for the upcoming tours, many people are postponing them and planning to go later this year,” he said.