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Monday April 15th, 2024

Easter Sunday attacks leave Sri Lanka east coast peak tourism season in tatters

Sri Lanka’s east coast has its peak tourism season from May through September

ECONOMYNEXT – Hotels in Sri Lanka’s east coast which has its peak tourism season from May through September was hit even worse from the Easter Sunday attacks than the rest of the country which was running through its off season.

“It’s a tough time for the hotels in the area,” said Neranjan Morais, General Manager of Uga Bay in the eastern resort of Passikudah, famed for its calm beach and watersports.

Trincomalee, the northernmost of the east coast, is a whale and dolphin watching destination, while Arugambay in the southern reaches is a world-class surfing spot.

Ship wrecks, mostly World War II Allied vessels bombed by the Japanese, dot the east coast and are popular among divers.

East coast hotels charge premiums during the five-month peak season. Discounts are offered from October through April, when there are heavy rains and rough seas.

Morais said that peak season profits fund hotels during the lean season, but there was no such surplus built in 2019, due to April’s Easter Sunday attacks, which resulted in mass cancellations.

Hotels across much of the country however have its peak season from November through March, and were spared disruptions to their most profitable months.

Arrivals to Sri Lanka had recovered rapidly following the Easter Sunday attacks, which had targeted three luxury hotels and three churches, killing over 250 persons.

Occupancies had recovered from less than 10 percent in May to around 60 percent in August for many hotels which were offering 50-60 percent discounts on room rates.

In August, which forms a mini-peak season for the country due to a cultural festival in the central hill city of Kandy, tourist arrivals were projected to have fallen just 15 percent from a year earlier, compared to a 71 percent fall in May.

However, occupancies at the east coast lags even as arrivals recover.

“The occupancy is about 40 percent in east coast hotels in August and we are expecting a drop again in September,” Morais said.

Annual average occupancies had been around 73-75 percent over the past three years in the region, according to official data.

“It would be helpful if we could get some soft loans and government support,” Morais said.

He said that government loan programs are still in the pipeline.

East coast occupancies are also down as the region does not benefit from fast transport infrastructure such as highways, which the country’s main resorts along the south coast enjoy, analysts say.

Sri Lanka is projecting about 2.1 million tourists to arrive in 2019, down 10 percent from 2018, compared to a 30 percent fall estimated immediately after the bombings.

Tourism is Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner, after worker remittances and apparel exports.

The tourism sector generated 4.4 billion US dollars in foreign exchange last year. (Colombo/Sep03/2019)


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Iran President to visit Sr Lanka on April 24 anid rising tension, inaugurate Omaoya power project

ECONOMYNEXT – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will arrive in Sri Lanka on April 24 on a one-day official visit to inaugurate Tehran-assisted $529 million worth Uma Oya multipurpose development project with 120MW hydro power generation capacity, official sources said.

The announcement on President Raisi’s visit comes two days after Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

“The President is visiting to inaugurate the Omaoya project. He will be on a one-day visit,” an official at Iran embassy in Colombo told EconomyNext.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official confirmed the move.

This is the first time an Iranian President coming to Sri Lanka Iranian after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

The Omaoya project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but had been delayed several times due to unexpected issued faced during the project cycle and funding issue after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The project was started in 2010 and the funding was to be received as loan grant from the Iranian government. However, Iran was able to provide $50 million before the sanctions. Sri Lanka has to bear the cost after the sanctions.

The project includes storing water in two reservoirs with dams before being brought through a 23 km tunnel to two turbines located underground and generating hydro power with a capacity of 120 megawatts and added to the national grid.

After power generation, the water is expected to be brought to three reservoirs while supplying water to 20,000 acres of old and new paddy fields in both the Yala and Maha cultivating seasons.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction was signed between the two countries in 2007 while Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved the execution of the contract agreement between the Executing Agency, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (MOIWM) of the GOSL and Iran’s FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FC).

When commencing the project on March 15, 2010, the scheduled date of completion of the project was on March 15, 2015. But the schedule completion date was extended to December 31, 2020 due to the unexpected water ingress into the head race tunnel and followed by social impacts.

The trade between the both countries suffered after the US sanctions. However, Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 with Iran to set off export of tea to Iran against a legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company.

Sri Lanka owes $251 million for crude imported before the US imposed sanctions on Iran. (Colombo/April 15/2024)

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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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