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Sunday October 1st, 2023

Sri Lanka tourist hotels ready to open in July, health rules drive costs up

BETTER DAYS: Tourists were still seen in Colombo in the early days of the crisis in February 2020.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s hotels are ready to open for tourists in July if authorities give permission though health rules to contain the risk of Coronavirus is pushing up operating costs, an industry official said.

“July is speculated as the possible month of opening but we haven’t received any official communications yet,” Sanath Ukwatter, Chairman of The Sri Lanka Hotel Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) said.

“We haven’t received any official messages from the governments on when we can open at least for the local tourists and perhaps foreign travellers after the airports are open. And we are very eager to start our operations.”

He was speaking at an online forum organized by Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance, an industry association.

Ukwatte said Sri Lanka don’t expect many tourists until late December this year.

“We don’t expect much business but late December onwards we will get quite a large number of inquiries’ which we will be able to turn to bookings.” Ukwatte said.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) had circulated a set of guidelines, for which feed back has been sent.

The guidelines were in the lines of those proposed by the World Health Organization and also Singapore he said.


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

They covered the entire journey of a guest from arrival to departure.

“We have already sent our feedback and we are waiting for a reply from SLTDA,” he said.

The experience of other Asian nations such as Vietnam, probably the global leader in the Coronavirus battle, showed that bars, where people sat and talked – as well as parties – were among the most dangerous in the spread of Coronavirus, observers familiar with the battle say.

Vietnam’s most problematic cluster, relating to the so-called Buddha Bar incident, was triggered by British nationals. Britain had been practising ‘herd immunity’ initially and its role in making the Wuhan epidemic a global pandemic is not yet clear.


Sri Lanka not yet considering travel restrictions to UK despite ‘herd immunity’ strategy

How Sri Lanka and Vietnam are smashing Coronavirus, and what will happen next

Vietnam has already opened its domestic economy and relaxed controls.

Sri Lanka has also been aggressively contact tracing, but initial reluctance to test outside of clusters started by symptomatic cases led to a surge. The testing gaps have mostly been closed except that voluntary testing is still banned.

Health Costs

Ukwatte said the main problem faced by small and medium sector hotels is high cost of maintaining the guidelines in their premises.

“The problem is mainly the cost. Implementation of these guidelines comes with an investment and increasing the work load.” Ukwatte said.

“That means you need to hire additional hands. Two, three and four star hotels can be reluctant to make additional investments at this moment. Especially in Sri Lanka they are struggling to pay wages.”

Ukwatte said the hotels have also need to train their staff to face the Covid 19 situations in the hotels and bear the cost.

“Hoteliers must reassure our customers both local and foreign that their hotels are safe places to visit. And also our team members.” Ukwatte said.

“So it is not only about having sanitizers, cleaning hands or wearing masks. But we need to mobilize our
team members to follow protocol through an enhanced training and establishing a task force in each hotel to help cover all points of guests.”

“I think covid 19 is going to stay here and we have to live with it for a while. And the only way for us to keep moving on is by taking necessary precautions.

Higher operating costs means room rates will have to eventually move up to compensate and SMEs will not be able to charge the same rates as earlier.

If a two week quarantine is imposed, travelers will also have to prepare to stay longer if they wanted to move out of quarantine hotels into inland travel. (Colombo/ May 16/ 2020)

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Sri Lanka National Christian Council opposes Online Safety Bill

ECONOMYNEXT – The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCCSL) in a statement on the Online Safety Bill, said that the existing legal regime is adequate to deal with instances of harmful speech, making it unjustifiable to enact such “stringent laws”.

The Council called upon the government to withdraw the bill immediately.

The body expressed “deep concern” over the proposed bill, detailing its potential to curtail freedom of speech and how, according to the Council, the piece of legislature is inconsistent with the principles of democracy.

“The bill proposes the establishment of an entity named the Online Safety Commission without provisions to guarantee its independence and impartiality,” the statement said.

Chapter 3 imposes restrictions on online communication of certain statements, many of which are vague and overbroad, leaving room for executive control and the curtailing of legitimate criticism and dissent that are basic features of democracy, the statement said.

“The laws granting wide discretion to the executive and its investigative agencies with expansive reach have been misused in the past.”

The Council said that the bill was not drafted with the process of public consultation and discussion, which might have ensured the bill would be less draconian in nature.

“The National Christian Council of Sri Lanka calls upon the government to withdraw this anti-human rights and anti-democratic bill immediately.” (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lanka to implement new vehicle revenue licence issuing system

ECONOMYNEXT – A new system of issuing vehicle licences called eRL 2.0 is to be implemented in 5 provinces, excluding the Western Province, from 3 October onwards.

The new system is to be implemented beginning in the North West, South, North Central, Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces, respectively. The existing vehicle licence issuing system eRL 1.0 will continue to be used in the Western Province.

The issuing of revenue licences islandwide at Department of Motor Traffic head offices and regional branches will be temporarily halted on October 2.

The facility of obtaining vehicle permits online will also be temporarily halted on 6 October till midnight.

The Sri Lanka Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Provincial Motor Traffic Departments are working to modernize the current vehicle revenue license issuance system.

The implementation of the new eRL 2.0 system is expected to be an important step in the digitalisation of Sri Lanka. (Colombo/Sep30/2023)

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Sri Lankan Airlines flights cancelled as aircraft grounded

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run SriLankan Airlines has apologized to passengers who were stranded as multiple aircraft were grounded at the same time.

The airline said it has strict procedures which requires aircraft to be grounded when technical issues are discovered.

“Unfortunately, in this case we suffered a number of groundings at the same time,” the airline said.

“We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience caused and assure all our loyal customers that we are working diligently to minimize such occurrences moving forward.”

The airline said it was booking passengers on other airlines while some have been accommodated at hotels. (Colombo/Sept30/2023)

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