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Sunday October 1st, 2023

Sri Lanka’s Colombo bursting with tourists in August: minister

In August most beaches in the West and South coasts are caught in Monsoon rains. The East is sunny.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo is fully booked with a convention involving a Bora religious dignitary and arrivals may top 170,000 in August, or 15 percent below last year’s level, officials said.

“Most hotels in formal and informal sector are fully booked,” Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said.

“Apartment have been booked.”

Minister Amaratunga said about 30,000 Bora tourists wanted to come but Colombo and environs did not have enough rooms.

“Some have fallen back. Definitely 20,000 to 25,000 are to come.”

Sri Lanka’s tourism sector was hit by Easter Sunday attacks by an extremist organization, most of whose members have now been arrested.

Key Western nations, whose intelligence officials were working with Sri Lanka’s authorities rapidly withdrew travel advisories as the network was shutdown within weeks. In May arrivals dropped 60 percent.

Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Johanne Jayaratne said he expected arrivals to top 170,000 in August.

Last year Sri Lanka got about 200,000 visitors, indicating that the August arrivals would only be about 10 percent below 2018.

Jayaratne said he expected tourist arrivals to reach last year’s levels by October.

The winter season beach tourism season involving Sri Lanka’s Western and Southern coasts starts in October after monsoons end. Until about September Sri Lanka’s East Coast is sunny.

Jayaratne said Sri Lanka is now projecting about 2.1 million tourists to arrive in 2019, down from 2.3 million last year, or 10 percent down.

“Sri Lanka is recovering faster than other countries that have experienced similar events,”Amaratunga said.

“I am thankful fo the armed forces, police and intelligence and all those involved.”

Sri Lanka’s hotels slashed prices to draw visitors. Jayaratne said total earnings would be more than 10 percent down due to price cuts.

Sri Lanka is now more attractive and comparable to some East Asian destinations after price cuts.

Politically influential hoteliers in the capital kept prices high for for Colombo city hotels until last year making the city compare unfavourably with some East Asian destinations with better service. (Colombo/Aug31/2019)

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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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