ECONOMYNEXT- Hotels in Sri Lanka’s cultural city Kandy are only half full during the annual ‘Esala Perahera’ pageant season which runs from August 05 to 15, following the April bombings, an industry official said.
"Bookings in Kandy are around 50-60 percent including locals and foreigners during the Perahera season, compared to last year’s 80-90 percent," Kandy Hoteliers Association President Samantha Rathnayake, who represents the Amaya chain, said.
The Esala Perahera season consists of a series of pageants, traditionally held pay homage to the Tooth Relic of the Buddha and to pray to the gods for rain ahead of the main cultivation season which begins in September.
The pageants include cultural processions such as whip cracking, various dances and costumed elephants as well as religious rites, the first of which began on Friday to signal the start of the season.
Earl’s Regency, one of the largest hotels in Kandy with 134 rooms, was on Friday offering up to a 45 percent discount when bookings for 3-days, with a free shuttle service to the Perahera.
Tourists who have come so far are mainly lower-spenders or backpackers instead of high-end tourists, Rathnayake said.
"We have waived off about 50 percent off the Perahera supplementary package too," he said.
Hotels offer packages to guests include a shuttle service and a seat.
The seats, usually on road-sides or balconies of various private homes and businesses, could sell for up to 100 US dollars each allowing tourists to view the perahera in relative comfort, compared to crowded pavements.
Hotel bookings fell after the Easter Sunday bombings, with arrivals to Sri Lanka falling 71 percent in May from a year earlier, 57 percent in June and around 50 percent in July.
Rathnayake said that security has been beefed up in Kandy during the Perahera season.
Over 7,000 police officers have been assigned for security during the pageant, the Police Spokesperson has said.
While the cultural festivities are not interrupted, the usual post-pageant carnivals and fairs which the Kandy Municipal Council usually holds at the Getambe and Katugastota grounds have been shelved, Rathnayake said. (Colombo/Aug02/2019)