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Indians defer travel plans as Sri Lanka imposes curfew

By Aneesh Phadnis
April 04, 2022 13:36 IST
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For Indians, Sri Lanka is one of the favourite venues for destina­tion weddings.

Sri Lanka

IMAGE: A man walks along a beach, against the backdrop of Colombo's Financial City.Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

But last month, when a family from Delhi chartered a Vistara Airbus A320 to Colombo, it packed much more than the standard paraphernalia of clothes, gifts and jewellery.

The family ferried meals from Delhi for all the guests and to cover their entire stay in Col­ombo due to the food and fuel shortages in the island nation.


Tourist movement to Sri Lanka has continued despite the economic crisis, but with the declaration of emergency and a 36-hour night curfew from Saturday, Indian tourists are rethinking their plans.

Five-star hotels in Colombo are already seeing cancellations and deferrals from group travellers, said an executive.

Flight loads have dropped and travel companies are seeing sluggish demand as customers prefer to wait and watch.

“We are witnessing lower bookings to Colombo due to the ongoing crisis.

"We are continuously monitoring the impact and may take appropriate action to adjust the capacity based on the demand and situation in Sri Lanka,” IndiGo said in a statement.

Air India has reduced its weekly flights to Colombo to 13 from 16 at present.

The revised schedule will come into effect from April 8.

“We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation together with our local partners and keeping our customers updated.

"Currently, while we have obs­er­ved a slowdown, we are yet to receive booking cancellations for Sri Lanka,” said Daniel D’Souza, president and country head (holidays), SOTC Travel.

The island nation has been a favourite with Indian tourists due to affordability and access.

In 2021, Indians topped tourist ar­rivals with over 56,000 visitors.

Demand started picking up from February as the country restarted visa on arrival facilities for foreign tourists including those from India.

Hotel bookings for April, too, have been strong with conferences, events and weddings. But the emergency measures have poured cold water on travel plans.

“Sri Lanka is a resilient country. It has fought back against terrorism and the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We hope this crisis passes quickly,” said a local hotelier.

An additional 40,000 metric tonnes of diesel were shipped from India on Saturday.

India has already extended a $1 billion credit line to the country.

Some within Sri Lanka believe sporad­ic incidents have got undue me­dia attention, which is affecting tourism.

“It is not as if the entire country is shut and there is no food,” said Sri Lanka India Soc­iety president Kishore Reddy.

But the declaration of emergency has travel agents worried.

“We have asked for clarity on when the emergency measures would be lifted,” said Jyoti Ma­yal, president of Travel Agents Association of India, which is hosting a convention in Sri Lanka later this month.

According to Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip, leisure bookings to Sri Lanka have been impacted by the recent developments, but the cancellation rate remains low.

“To ensure safety of travel­lers visiting Sri Lanka in the near future, our teams are working round-the-clock to keep them ab­reast of the latest developments including travel guidelines and standard travel protocols.

"We have also extended the option of a no-cost change of destination, depending on the travellers’ convenience.”

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Aneesh Phadnis in Mumbai
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