Sri Lankan authorities expect tourist arrivals to drop by as much as 50 percent over the next two months in the wake of a series of deadly terrorist attacks on the island nation, according to Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau chairman Kishu Gomes.
“In Colombo, for the next two months, we believe that arrivals will go down by 50 percent…and in out station areas by about 30 percent,” Gomes told reporters at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.
Additionally, Gomes said officials estimate that Sri Lanka will fall short of its official target of attracting 2.5 million international tourists in 2019, and about a million people fewer than its “aspirational” target of 3 million. In 2018, the country attracted 2.33 million visitors.
“We will probably reach about 2 million, but [it is not] scientifically easy to get an accurate calculation,” he said. “If the military can come out over the next few day’s time and make a statement with respect to security, that’s when we will offer a bit of confidence and try work against that anticipation.”
While Gomes said Sri Lankan tourism officials are confident in the security force’s ability to eliminate any lingering terrorist threat in Colombo, he said that there is nothing that the country can do to guarantee the security of visitors.
“Guaranteeing security in any country in the world is not possible anymore,” he said, adding that officials are studying the strategies of other destinations that have suffered from terrorist incidents such as Bali, Paris and London.
Additionally, Gomes said that the cash flow of hoteliers “might be disturbed” because of widespread cancellations over the next several months.
“We have an obligation to do something about it,” he said. “We are looking at providing some concessions for them to be able to maintain their viability.”
A total of 42 foreigners from 15 countries were among the more than 250 people killed in the attacks, along with over 40 foreigners who were wounded. All but one of the injured tourists has been discharged from hospital.
Gomes added that two of the three hotels struck by bombers have re-started normal operations, while a third – the Shangri-La in Colombo – is expected to return to normal operations in June.
In the wake of the attacks, authorities took a number of measures to help foreign tourists, which included putting together a “checklist” of measures that should be taken by hotels, helping find accommodations for family members of the dead and wounded, and visiting injured tourists to give them the option of moving to private hospitals from state-operated ones.