Updated: Trade welcomes return to Sri Lanka

Operators and hoteliers have welcomed the FCO’s decision to lift its ban on travel to Sri Lanka.

The UK government relaxed its advice and no longer advises against all but essential travel to the island.

The FCO said terrorists are still “very likely to try to carry out attacks” but security had been stepped up across the island and a State of Emergency remains in place.

A travel ban had been in place since Easter after three churches and three luxury hotels were targeted in a series of terrorist suicide bombings, killing 258 people, including 45 foreign nationals.

The Shangri-La, The Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in Colombo were among the locations targeted by the bombers.

The German, Swiss and Austrian governments relaxed their advice against travel to Sri Lanka last week – advice put in place following the Easter Sunday massacres.

Operators and agents were forced to re-arrange or cancel customer bookings to Sri Lanka following the original FCO advice.

Derek Moore, Aito chairman, said: “It is heartening that the Foreign Office travel advice has been amended and the advice against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka has been lifted.

“When a destination so popular with members’ customers suffers an incident this is the time for us to show our support for the people in the destination by travelling there, rather than turning our backs on them.‎

“We congratulate the Sri Lankans ‎for their hard work and successful lobbying in this respect and I know that Aito members – and the UK travel industry as a whole – will be very happy indeed to send their customers to this gem of an island again.”

Kerry Golds, managing director at Abercrombie & Kent, said: “Sri Lanka is brim with lush landscapes, ancient treasures and amazing people. Now is the time that they need our support.

“Tourism is a big part of its economy and the FCO update is only good news for the Sri Lankan people. Our local office on the ground there means that A&K are with you every step of the way for those who may still be cautious about travelling.”

If Only chief executive Andy Freeth tweeted: “Some positive news for Sri Lanka from the FCO – no longer advise against all but essential travel.”

Kuoni boss Derek Jones tweeted: “Sri Lanka is an amazing destination. I’m delighted for our Sri Lankan friends and colleagues that we can once again work together to rebuild confidence in the country.”

Shiromal Cooray, director of Jetwing Hotels which has a number of properties on the island, said: “We are so thankful that UK, Denmark and France have joined the other European, Scandinavian and Asian countries to relax their travel advisories.

“The industry breathed a sigh of relief, because the UK is a very important market for us. They may not bring in the numbers, but the visitors spend longer in the country and bring in much needed income to the people of our island.”

Malik Fernando, owner of hotel group Resplendent Ceylon, said: “Tourism is a large part of our economy supporting one in 10 families in Sri Lanka so the FCO update is excellent news.

“We have a close connection with the UK as one our biggest inbound markets and look forward to welcoming visitors back with open arms. We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support over the past month and have no doubt that a bright and peaceful future lies ahead.”

The FCO site says: “The FCO no longer advise against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka.”

It adds: “The authorities have announced emergency regulations that ban the wearing of clothing or objects that conceal the face in such a way that prevents the wearer’s identification. Travel within Sri Lanka may take longer than normal – you should check with your travel provider well in advance and allow extra time.

“If you’re travelling from Colombo Airport, check the latest advice from your airline or tour operator about check-in times. Some airlines are advising passengers to arrive early due to increased security screening.

“The Sri Lankan government continues to use curfews as part of ongoing security operations. Most recently these have been put in place at short notice, and some have been limited to specific areas.

“The Sri Lankan authorities have confirmed that passengers with a passport and a valid flight ticket (including electronic ticket) can travel to the airport during curfew periods.”

It also said visitors should “remain vigilant” and familiarise themselves with security procedures at their hotel or accommodation.

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