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Sri Lanka eyes post-Coronavirus tourism with tighter visa, health rules

Tourism is the third highest source of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka, but the industry has faced a downturn following the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is making plans draw tourists after a Coronavirus crisis, with a raft of new operating rules for hotels, transport and visa to cut changes of the virus being transmitted and protect workers and their families, a tourism official said.

“The visa process will be changed. When you turn up you will not be able to have visa,’ Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism told an online forum organized by Advocata Institute, a Colombo-based think tank.

“Everyone will need to apply for visa two weeks before arrival and all will be requested to undergo a test which will be selected at the discretion of the Health Ministry.

“We will ask the tourists’ to book their accommodations. It has not been finalized yet but we are suggesting that all tourists adhere to this.”

Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals had dropped 70.8 percent from a year earlier to 71,370 in March 2020, amid a Coronavirus crisis, with borders closed for arrivals from March 19.

Industry officials said it may take about a year to recover but they are already getting bookings for January.

Related

Sri Lanka hotels brace for 12-month slump on Covid-19 hit

Digital Track

An app is being developed to track and provide situational information on Sri Lanka’s Covid-19sitution to tourists.

This app would be available for download at the Sri Lanka tourism official website. Fernando said that the software would not be used to reference or market any hotel or service provider but to simply act as a mode of getting information..

“When tourists arrive in the airport we will know all the information about them, where they have traveled and so on and so forth,” Fernando said. “And then on arrival they will be subjected to enter the medical tests which will happen at our cost.”

“After this process, tourists who are tested healthy will proceed onto immigration where all normal procedures will take place and they will be given an app which when registered in gives all the information on Sri Lanka and all the certified hotels in regard to Covid-19.”

“We will also have certified transport too which we will look into and after that when they enter their hotels there will be a detailed protocol to be followed,” she said.

“There will be strict guidelines given to hotels on how housekeeping should be done while adhering to all Covid-19 preventive methods.

“If in any case we are not happy with the health status of a guest we will have army commanded 4star or 5star quarantine hotels which would charge whatever the dollar price you would charge and get them quarantined.”

Any tourist who tests negative to Coronavirus can develop the disease within the next 14 days.

Premium Quarantine

Until Vietnam closed borders to take the pressure off contact tracers in the current Coronavirus crisis, tourist who arrived in the country could choose between military run free quarantine centres or ‘premium’ private quarantine from budget to 5-star.

Around 270 hotels signed up for the scheme, though not all were approved at the time inbound arrivals were halted. At some hotels food was served by robot waiters.

Of the 268 Coronavirus cases discovered up to April 17 and treated about 160 were foreigners. Many have been released from hospital.

Meanwhile Fernando said hotel staff will be quarantined prior to returning to their villages in order to prevent any risks.

“A separate guideline for hotel staff is being drawn up, where we will specify whether there should be an approved doctor present and other processes like full quarantine process before the staff go back home,” she said.

“The last thing we need is a hotel staff returning to their villages and infecting the entire area,” she said.

Fernando said that the tourist board has looked at Singapore models on this regard.

Singapore however has some community transmission and had 9,125 cases so far and 11 deaths.

Vietnam, which had aggressive contact tracing and completely eradicated the disease during the Wave I influx from China in January and February. In the last five days zero new cases had been found and 216 are in hospital. None had died.

Vietnam’s neigbhour, Cambodia, is also contact tracing. (Colombo/Apr22/2020)

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