ECONOMYNEXT – The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) drew heavy flak on Wednesday (08) when a letter its chairperson had written to the Health Services Director General requesting further relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions for inbound passengers went viral.
Defending the letter, SLTDA Director General Dhammika Wijayasinghe told EconomyNext that it was merely a list of international best practice.
“The request made was from a tourism industry perspective, adopted from best practices in other countries. The final decision, however, lies with and will be made by the ministry of health, considering the ground situation in the country,” she said.
The September 07 letter signed by SLTDA Chairperson Kimarli Fernando and addressed to Health Services Director General Dr Asela Gunawardana sought four changes to what is currently practiced in handling inbound travellers.
The requirements are, namely,
- Remove wearing PPE for fully vaccinated flight crew
- Remove PCR requirement of 72 hours before boarding the flight for fully vaccinated travelers
- Remove PCR for children 12-years and below in line with EU regulations
- Allow on arrival rapid tests for fully vaccinated travelers arriving via tourists’ route and to be conducted at the airport.
Fernando is currently away in Russia promoting tourism in Sri Lanka.
According to Director General Wijayasinghe, a request had initially come from Russia to study the European Union’s guidelines.
Wijeyasinghe said the request was made after the SLTDA chief and other top officials had studied best practices employed by other travel destinations as well as industry expectations.
This is not the first time Sri Lanka tourism has come under fire for its measures taken to allow tourists in the country at a time of raging COVID-19 epidemic and a crippling foreign exchange shortage.
Sri Lanka has seen an uptick in tourist arrivals for the first time in August after opening the country in January. The island allows quarantine and travel bubble free vacation for fully vaccinated tourists.
Sri Lanka is also giving extended visas for ‘digital nomad’ visa tourists who can stay for several months working online.
In August, it allowed Indian travelers to enter the country.
As per data published by SLTDA ,Canada became the top source country in August with 594, up from 178 in July, followed by Germany 515, UK 489, Pakistan 456 and India 405.
There were 311 visitors from the US, 248 from France and 247 from Russia. (Colombo/Sep08/2021)a