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Sunday May 19th, 2024

Sri Lanka tourism could be facing worst crisis in history from Coronavirus: hotels chief

CLOSED DOORS: Tourist stand outside the closed Dehiwala Zoo, in Colombo on March 15, 2020, following the authorities announcement to close it for two weeks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP

ECONOMYNEXT – With a global Coronavirus pandemic keeping people at home and flights cancelled from many countries Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is perhaps facing the worst crisis in history, an industry official said.

“This is the worst crisis we have ever seen in the tourism industry,” President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Sanath Ukwatte told EconomyNext.

The current crisis is overshadowing hit the industry took from the 2019 April terrorist bombings, when arrivals fell 18 percent, he said.

Ukwatte said it is still too early to forecast the fall of tourist arrivals for 2020, as the situation is still developing.

“I personally think that the people will be comfortable and confident of traveling and going on vacation only after a vaccine is developed,” he said.

However health experts abroad had said that most new viral pandemics end when a large proportion of the population are infected and they get better, developing immunity across the population.

The so-called herd immunity comes into play when about 70 percent of the population gets the disease.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry faced its biggest crisis in history in 1996 when arrivals plunged 25 percent to 303,265after Sri Lanka’s central bank was bombed during the civil war and tourist earnings dropped 23 percent to 173 million US dollars.

Sri Lanka’s formal tourist industry developed from around the early 1970s.

But in 1996, tourism accounted for just 1 percent of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product (GDP), and disruptions did not cause as much of an impact for the economy as today.

By 2018, the industry had grown to contribute 5 percent to GDP with 4.4 billion US dollars in revenue.

Ukwatte said tourism earnings in 2020 are expected to fall even below the 2019 terror-hit numbers.

Central Bank provisional numbers showed Sri Lanka had earned 3.6 billion US dollars from tourism in 2019.

Up to Sunday 19 persons had tested positive for Coronavirus, including a Chinese national who recovered and left the country while over a 100 are under observation.

Sri Lanka in January restricted visa to Chinese nationals, who form a tenth of the island’s foreign visitors, as the virus outbreak accelerated, causing arrivals from the East Asian economy to plunge 92.5 percent, and total arrivals to fall 17.7 percent.

But in March 2020, boarding restrictions were placed on 11 countries including UK and Germany which are among the top generating markets for Sri Lanka.

Europe accounted for 44 percent of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka in 2019. Within Europe, UK and Germany account for the largest shares, and the British government issued a travel advisory to its citizens on Sunday, saying Sri Lankan authorities would quarantine them to stop the spread of the virus.

In March, Sri Lanka restricted arrivals of holidaymakers who had been in South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden and Austria since the start of the month. (Colombo/Mar16/2020)

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Sri Lanka seeks to draw youth into agri-entrepreneurship with 1.6bn funding

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has earmarked 1.6 billion rupees for the establishment of 160 model farms across the island, that are to be owned and operated by youth agri-entrepreneurs.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has taken steps to allocate 1,600 million rupees to establish 160 villages in 25 districts with 6 youth agri entrepreneurship villages in each district,” Minister Mahinda Amaraweera was quoted in a statement.

“Arrangements have been made to provide an amount of one million rupees to each village under the first phase.”

The Minister said the aim of the program is to attract youth to agriculture and to introduce them to new agricultural technology, so they could target local markets and exports.

Under the initiative vegetables, fruits, plantation crops, and fish are to be harvested, and livestock products are to be produced in the villages. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Sri Lanka Navy nabs fishermen engaged in illegal fishing

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Navy apprehended eight persons engaged in illegal fishing in the seas off Ambalanpokkanei, Mullaitivu, Poduwakattu, and Trincomalee, this week.

“The operations also led to the seizure of 3 dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear employed for these illegal acts,” it said in a statement.

“The Sri Lanka Navy remains vigilant and conducts operations to combat illegal fishing in its sea and coastal areas, with a view to supporting legal fishing activities.”

The fishermen were engaging in light-coarse fishing and using unauthorized fishing nets.

They were intercepted by the SLNS Gotabaya and SLNS Walagamba of the Eastern Naval Command.

The individuals were identified as residents of Mullaitivu, Kuchchaveli and Poduwakattu, aged between 21 to 53 years.

The fishermen, dinghies and unauthorized fishing gear were handed over to the Assistant Directorate of Fisheries – Mullaitivu, and the Fisheries Inspector of Trincomalee for legal action, the Navy said. (Colombo/May18/2024)

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Fifteen years after the end of the war, victims still await justice at Mullivaikkal: Amnesty

ECONOMYNEXT – Speaking at a commemoration marking the 15th anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka’s internal armed conflict on 18 May 2009, which culminated in the brutal Mullivaikkal offensive where countless civilian lives were lost, Secretary General at Amnesty International Agnès Callamard said:

“Today’s anniversary is a grim reminder of the collective failure of the Sri Lankan authorities and the international community to deliver justice to the many victims of Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long internal armed conflict.

It is sobering to stand in the same place where, 15 years ago, countless civilian lives were lost during the last days of the war.

Ahead of this event, we have witnessed clampdown on the memory initiatives, including arrests, arbitrary detentions and deliberately skewed interpretations of the Tamil community’s attempts to remember their people lost to the war. Authorities must respect the space for victims to grieve, memorialise their loved ones and respect their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

UN investigations have found credible evidence of crimes under international law and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by those on both sides of the conflict, yet there has been little in the way of an independent or impartial national inquiry into such serious crimes.

Meanwhile, the families of those who were forcibly disappeared during the conflict have been left to search desperately for their loved ones. It is truly heartbreaking to hear from victims how long they have been demanding justice in vain.

The Sri Lankan government is best placed to provide answers to the victims, however numerous domestic mechanisms to establish accountability in the last 15 years have been mere window dressing.

The report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released earlier this week too reiterates the gaping deficits in Sri Lanka’s accountability initiatives that has contributed to impunity remaining deeply entrenched.

Tens of thousands of victims and their families continue to suffer in anguish as they await truth, justice, and reparations. We stand in solidarity with them here in Mullivaikkal today.”

Background:

During the internal armed conflict from 1983 to 2009, Sri Lankan government forces and their armed political affiliates committed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and acts of torture against Tamils suspected of links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The LTTE also launched indiscriminate suicide attacks on civilian targets like buses and railway stations, assassinated politicians and critics, and forcibly recruited children as fighters.

Violations of international human rights and humanitarian law peaked in the final months of the conflict, most notably in May 2009 when some 300,000 displaced civilians were trapped between the warring parties.

It was at Mullivaikkal, a small village in Mullaitivu district in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, where the final offensive between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE took place, killing at least 40,000 civilians according to UN estimates.

Each year, on 18 May, a memorial event at Mullivaikkal brings together thousands of war-affected Tamils to commemorate those lost to the war and demand justice and accountability.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) this week released a report on accountability for enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka.
(Colombo/May18/2024)

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