China tourists to Sri Lanka plunge since Coronavirus scare, bigger fall expected

ECONOMYNEXT – Tourist arrivals from China to Sri Lanka have dropped about 40 percent from January 23 as both countries tightened travel requirements in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials said.

“A considerable number of travelers have stopped coming to the country from China, as a percentage it could be on average 40 percent,” Director of Sri Lanka’s Airport and Aviation Services Shehan Sumanasekara said.

“We are anticipating a considerable drop in the future too.”

The head of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Kimarli Fernando said Chinese arrivals had dropped 15 percent in January 2020 from 26,414 visitors last year to 22,363 this year.

Sri Lanka’s overall tourist arrivals dropped 7.4 percent in January 2020, from a year earlier to 226,094.

Arrivals from other countries have dropped only 5 percent.

But February would see a steeper drop from China, though she was unable to make a firm forecast. China has stopped group travel and Sri Lanka has restricted entry visas from cities which are known to be virus hotspots.

Sri Lanka welcomed 35,929 visitors from China last February. Out of a total of 2.33 million visitors last year, 265,965 were from China.

Sri Lanka has received about 4840 Chinese arrivals from January 23, 2020 to date after special screening was introduced which was followed up with visa restrictions, Sumanasekara said.

SriLankan Airlines had brought 2572 Chinese and 362 SriLanka visitors in the period.

China Southern had brought 449 Chinese and 37 Sri Lanka passengers. China Eastern had carried 483 Chinese and 50 Sri Lankan visitors.

Air China had carried 504 Chinese and 110 Sri Lankans and other airlines had carried 262 Chinese and 11 Sri Lanka passengers.

Most tourists have come from Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou.

Tourism and health authorities said Sri Lanka was still welcoming tourists from China, with additional precautions taken.

“We should not panic, but we should not be careless either,” Thilanka Ruwanpathirana Consultant Epidemiologist of Sri Lanka Ministry of health said.

Sri Lanka has also issued a declaration form to all the passengers arriving in the country. This form would be used to monitor the movement of the passengers according to the details provided by the passengers.

Novel Coronavirus is not an airborne disease but spreads from droplets and any secretions that may have got into objects which are touched.

Hence Ruwanpathirana said priority should be given to wash hands frequently than the face mask.

Health officials said guides and drivers who are handling Chinese tourists have been instructed to wear masks and wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizers. The officials also said the virus would not be passed through beddings and swimming pools.

Hotels are also told how to clean and make hotel room safe, he said.

Ruwanpathirana said it is not necessary to close a hotel where a patient had been, but the hotels are adviced to follow the cleaning methods.

Sri Lanka confirmed its first novel coronavirus patient on January 27, a tourist who had arrived from China’s Hubei province. The female Chinese national was reported to have made a full recovery and was soon to be discharged from the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH).

Japan has found a driver and guide infected. In Vietnam, a receptionist is suspected to have contracted the virus.

The Philippines became the first country outside China to confirm a death from the virus. (Colombo/Feb/2020-SB)