Tourism, which accounts for 5 per cent of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product, tanked after Islamist bombers on April 21 attacked luxury hotels and churches, killing 250 people, including 40 foreigners.
England, India and the US were among countries that issued travel advisories for Sri Lanka, a diverse island with pristine beaches, ancient Buddhist temples, and lush hills that Lonely Planet selected as its top 2019 destination.
To lure tourists back, Sri Lanka is hosting international sporting events and has mothballed a rule on minimum rates for hotel stays. State-owned Sri Lankan Airlines is offering special fares and pushing joint promotions with the government’s tourism board. Some hotels are also waiving corkage fees on day trips.
Lavanga Resort Spa in the southern beach resort of Hikkaduwa, for example, is offering rooms for $35 instead of the usual $75 — with free breakfast. Travel agents are promoting the offer in Russia, with some success. “We have offered rock-bottom rates for foreigners. We are getting bookings for the winter season,” said Lavanga’s managing director, Anusha Frydman.
“I secured a six-night stay in a plush southern hotel for $200 which included complimentary ayurvedic treatment,” said 52-year-old Leif Ohlson from Sweden. Data suggests more and more foreigners are emulating him.
“We are expecting the recovery to commence. It is too early to say how fast and to what level it will be,” Gomes said.