As Sri Lanka’s leaders wrangled with the implications of an apparent militant attack and massive intelligence failure, security was heightened Tuesday for a national day of mourning. (April 23)
Hotels in Sri Lanka are seeing a steep uptick in cancellations following the bombing attack that killed at least 253 people on Easter Sunday at churches and hotels, including the luxury Shangri-La.
The Mandarina Colombo hotel in Sri Lanka, which opened in early 2017, has seen a nearly 40% drop in bookings and an equal amount of cancellations because of the terrorist attack. At full capacity the hotel can accommodate about 190 to 200 people.
“Over the last two years and two months we have never had anything less that 80 to 85% (occupancy) except for this month where this disaster has put us at a record low of 42% occupancy,” the hotel told USA TODAY in a statement.
Mandarina Colombo was still encouraging tourists to come to the property, but the hotel warned “guests have to be very vigilant and expect a lot of security.”
The president of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, Sanath Ukwatte, told travel industry publication Skift that the Mount Lavinia hotel saw 20% of bookings cancelled so far. Ukwatte owns the hotel.
“Everyone is in shock right now,” he told Skift. “This is the first time tourist hotels have been targeted in this manner. Every hotel has increased security.”
The Onyx hotel chain in Sri Lanka, too, is experiencing cancellations mainly in the next six to eight weeks. That includes a mix of guests both already in the country planning to leave early and those booked and scheduled to arrive soon, said Russell Cool, area general manager at Onyx Sri Lanka.
“Our hotels, including Amari Galle, Ozo Kandy & OZO Colombo all remain open and continue to welcome travelers to the region and we have also heightened our security protocols,” Cool told USA TODAY. “We have experienced cancellations as one would expect in these circumstances, our recommendation to all guests planning on travelling to the country is to check with their respective governments for travel advisory updates.”
The U.S. travel advisory for Sri Lanka − most recently updated on Sunday − is a level 2, meaning “exercise increased caution.” The highest warning is a level 4, or “do not travel,” while the lowest is a level 1, meaning “exercise normal precautions.”
The warning for Sri Lanka cautions travelers: “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.”
The U.S. Embassy warned on Thursday: “Sri Lankan authorities are reporting that additional attacks may occur targeting places of worship. Avoid these areas over the weekend, starting tomorrow.” The embassy also encouraged U.S. citizens on Friday to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to stay up-to-date on safety security alerts.
Sri Lanka saw 2.3 million tourists in 2018, according to the nation’s Tourism Development Authority. Tourism numbers have been on the upswing since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.
Britain, meanwhile, advised its citizens against traveling to the island country.
For his part, Cool, of Onyx Sri Lanka, isn’t planning to leave. “If I may put it in perspective, I am an Australian living in Colombo with my wife and three children all under 10 and I am not leaving.”
Sri Lanka had aimed to boost its tourism efforts by giving away free visas to travelers from more than 30 countries. That program is now on hold as a result of security concerns, according to a statement from the Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs.
Tourism boost effort planned: Sri Lanka to offer free visas to tourists from 30 countries, including US
Contributing: Julia Thompson, Associated Press
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