“Business begins now”, as DFAT downgrades travel advice for Sri Lanka

Seema Malaka Buddhist temple situated in the Beira Lake in Colombo; Sri Lanka

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has lowered its travel advice for Sri Lanka in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks in April.

According to a Smartraveller.com.au update, DFAT has downgraded its advice for Sri Lanka from level three (“reconsider your need to travel”) to level two (“exercise a high degree of caution”).

The lowering indicates that Sri Lanka is progressing towards a state of normalcy, but is still cautious, with high levels of security in place across the country.

It follows the UK’s lifting of its travel ban, with the German, Swiss and Austrian governments also recently relaxing their advice for travel to Sri Lanka.

DFAT’s downgrade also comes before a group of local travel agents and journalists participate in a famil to Sri Lanka next month.

In a statement to Travel Weekly, Sri Lanka consul general Lal Wickrematunge said: “Most countries have revised travel advisories on Sri Lanka and Australia has done so as well. That is heartening, but business begins now.”

Malik Fernando, owner of Resplendent Ceylon, said: “Tourism is the most significant part of our economy, supporting one in 10 families in Sri Lanka, so the relaxation of the advisory is excellent news.

“We have a close connection with Australia as one of our fastest-growing 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.”

Tour operator Beyond Travel praised the DFAT’s downgrading of its travel advice to Sri Lanka.

The company’s general manager of marketing, Bryce Crampton, said the update reflects the industry’s confidence and commitment to the destination.

“For a country that was going through such a boom, after years of instability, it is such a shame to see the knock-on effects that the Easter attacks are having on the tourism industry and the local people of Sri Lanka,” he said.

“We are grateful for the support the trade have shown in its commitment to the destination, as bookings are slowly starting to come in for later this year, which we believe will only increase with the change in travel warning from the Australian government.

During this extreme downturn in tourism, Beyond Travel has committed to supporting suppliers with thousands of dollars in assistance payments which have been given to frontline tourism staff, such as drivers and guides, to help them through the current financial hardships.

Crampton said these contributions are essential to a variety of local ground staff in order to survive.

“Inbound tourism is down 80 per cent and the effect on the locals is absolutely devastating, from the famers who supply eggs to the hotels and the flower growers who make the garlands, through to restaurant staff, guides and drivers,” he said.

“All have been severely impacted.”

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