Sri Lanka’s struggling hotels get fillip from local demand

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s hotel demand surged during the Vesak holiday weekend with local bookings, after the industry took a hit following the Easter Sunday bombings in April.

President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka Sanath Ukwatte said that 60-70 percent of hotel rooms in the island were booked during the long weekend, which ran till Monday.
Previously, hotel occupancy was at 10 percent, with foreigners cancelling trips to Sri Lanka due to security concerns.
Easter Sunday attacks were targeted at three luxury hotels in Colombo and three churches, which left 258 people dead including high profile tourists and injured more than 400.
The local demand spike comes after hoteliers slashed down prices.
"Hotels have cut down prices up to 50 percent," Ukwatte said.
"They are offering discounts just to keep the staff and run the properties," he said.
"Yala and Southern resorts have a lot of demand but Trincomalee and Pasikuda in the Eastern Province were down," Ukwatte said.
"The local demand is insufficient to make profits and recover investment costs," he said.
Hoteliers are still in the dark of when the situation will go back to normal.
The government has announced that it would offer a relief package to the hotels, but some details have yet to be finalized.
"We don’t know when the situation will go back to normal, and the communal riots have pushed back recovery another three months," Sanath Ukwatte said.
Prior to the communal violence which emerged as a backlash to the bombings, the country’s Tourism Minister said that the industry would recover in three months, revising an earlier estimate of 13-months made by one of his officers.
Sri Lanka was chosen as the best country to visit in 2019 by the Lonely Planet travel publication.
After the Easter attacks, 37 countries issued travel advisories on Sri Lanka.
Hotels have yet to start promoting the destination, following the attacks.
"We are involved with the airlines and travel agents in promotion measures but right now we are unable to do promotions with the travel advisories," Ukwatte said.
Some analysts say that promoting the country while there are frequent curfews in the country would be counterproductive, as it would appear as if the tourism industry is insensitive to the safety of tourists. (COLOMBO, 21 May, 2019)