ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s hotels which were struggling amid a Coronavirus pandemic had received another blow as authorities cancelled weddings and parties to control fast expanding Covid-19 wave, industry officials said.
May to July is considered the ‘wedding season’ in Sri Lanka with astrologers usually finding auspicious times or ‘neketh’ on Thursday and Friday.
Sri Lanka clamped down Coronavirus controls after celebrating freely despite warnings from public health inspectors that some restrictions should have been placed.
Coronavirus came roaring back in the third week of April with a potent B.1.17 UK variant being found in the country.
Wedding and parties are banned till May 20, when they may be reviewed.
“Weddings have got postponed and some cancelled,” Sanath Ukwatte, President of Sri Lanka Hotels Association told EconomyNext.
“We don’t have a count at the moment, but it is a tremendous concern for the industry.”
“It is a responsibility of everyone to adhere to the health guidelines to contain this virus. If it was not misused as we did during the new-year holidays, today, we would have had a better time.”
Hoteliers across the country say that weddings that were supposed to take place this month have already been cancelled or amended.
Araliya Green City hotel in Nuwara Eliya says four weddings have been put on hold and they are not sure with the current situation if customers will go ahead with it.
They expect the organizers to put off the wedding maximum of a month and then do it somewhere indoors.
Rodney Armstrong, the Kandy Hotels Association President told EconomyNext that they have cancelled all parties and postponed weddings and are back to ‘square one’.
Kandy is considered the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and is known to host large weddings.
The outbreak happened at a time when business was picking up, he said.
Armstrong who is also the general manager at Mahaweli Reach Hotel in Kandy says at least 11 weddings out of the 20 that was supposed to take place were postponed and they have little hope of them taking place again.
Sri Lanka has also allowed tourists to the country under a series of PCR tests.
Hotels allowing tourists cannot admit local guests or host weddings. Some hotels are also running as quarantine centres.
“Tourists in the country are fine,” Ukwatte said. “They have seen worse in their countries than us, so they are used to it and know to do what’s necessary.”
Ukwatte said there had been no outbreak in hotel staffs which shows the industry is taking proper health precautions.
“The only risk we had was local guests patronizing hotels because tourists, in general, go through many PCR tests and checks so the spread from them is minimal,” Ukwatte said.
“As a country we need more PCR tests carried out and kick start the vaccination program.”
Some hotels are also operating as intermediate care centres for asymptomatic Coronavirus patients.
“Many hoteliers have converted their hotels into intermediary care centres, where we open our doors to COVID patients to come and spend their quarantine period in the hotels and don’t want to stay in hospital beds and block them for someone with a greater necessity,” Ukwatte explained.
“It can also be a source of income because our first priority is to pay the salaries of our staff.”
He says since the country opened its borders for tourists in January up to April, Sri Lanka has got around 11,000 travellers which is not enough to sustain them.
He said the treatment centre was a source of income.
Sri Lanka has not imposed a travel ban for tourists in the current wave. (Colombo/May04/2021)