Midweek Interview

Life in the time of COVID-19 with The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka’s Laahiru Jayamanne

This week, The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka’s managing director gives some great advice to travel industry folk on how to best cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

What are you reading?

I’m reading facts on Sri Lankan traditional cooking and medicines and have discovered how our natural ingredients are rich in oxidants which enhance our immune system.

What are you watching?

Plenty of cartoons through to action/comedy. Lots of Hobbs & Shaw – everything the kids enjoy (I must admit I am entertained as well) – and a lot of news.

What are you listening to?

Sri Lankan music, especially the oldies. We have made it a point to sing as a family for at least an hour each evening. My three boys weren’t fond of the oldies, but now they are taking a real interest. We may have a new boy band on our hands!

What are you cooking?

We’re cooking a lot, but we’re keeping it to simple local food. We are currently putting together a Sri Lankan cookbook with the proceeds to going to a local charity.

Today’s dishes for lunch were Fish Ambul Thiyal (a dry blackfish curry – our ANZ rep’s favourite) with manyok (a local yam from my garden), and homemade chilli paste with coconut sambal.

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

Looking after three boys aged three, eight and 13 occupied is keeping my wife and I very active. Please let me go back to the office! 

We have started gardening, which I think is more of a mental exercise than a physical one. We are also taking online lessons on Buddhist meditation. I have yet to start some cardio exercises during the lockdown!

What’s the one thing keeping you sane?

Work, would you believe? We’re using the time to update sample itineraries and flyers, upgrade our website, progress two of our responsible tourism initiatives, and prepare destination information, so we’ll have a lot more to support Aussie agents with when they’re ready!

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

That we are always at the mercy of mother nature. That the rich, the poor, the most powerful, and the weakest are treated equally by mother nature. 

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

Patience! Patience to wait for business. Patience to wait for better times. Patience to go out and meet friends. Patience to be with the family 24/7 without a break. Patience to keep our hopes and dreams alive.

What’s your advice for others in the travel industry on coping with the crisis?

We were already out of business for 10 months since last year’s Easter Sunday attack. We have done our best to retain our colleagues by taking the biggest hit ourselves as the shareholders.

Learning from our earlier experiences (airport bombing, tsunami and civil war), we made it a point to keep a reserve of funds for rainy days. We have always made it a point to keep our expenses self-scrutinised, yet in every crisis we have discovered more cost efficiencies. 

We will spend the locked-down time with the families and also work on some new products and ideas.

Keeping our faith and hope are of utmost importance. We surely can bounce back as new and improved service providers. When we do, let’s not forget to engage more in responsible tourism which focuses on environment, community and wildlife.

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