DestinationsThe island is still resplendent, says Malik Fernando, chief of Resplendent Ceylon, the hospitality arm of Dilmah Tea.

Please come back, Sri Lanka urges tourists

With the crowds out of the way, tourists can better enjoy Sri Lanka in all its unspoilt natural glory.
With the crowds out of the way, tourists can better enjoy Sri Lanka in all its unspoilt natural glory. Photo Credit: Resplendent Ceylon

The head of one of Sri Lanka’s leading luxury resort companies has urged travellers not to abandon the country as it returns to near-normal after recent political upheaval.

Malik Fernando, managing director, Resplendent Ceylon, said while the economic crisis in Sri Lanka has “hammered” the tourism industry, on the back of the Covid-19 shutdown, the country was back on track with political stability “and looking forward to a good winter season”.

Fernando said Sri Lanka may be a small island, but it packs in a continent’s worth of attractions, with eight World Heritage sites, all within a few hours of each other.

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He cites attractions such as the Ceylon tea highlands, the Cultural Triangle; a cradle of an ancient Buddhist Civilisation, “and probably the best wildlife parks outside Africa with leopards, elephants, bears, and blue whales offshore”.

Resplendent Ceylon is part of the Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company, founded by Merrill J. Fernando. Its properties embrace Ceylon Tea Trails, Cape Weligama and Wild Coast Tented Lodges.

Malik Fernando has offered advice to travel agents which he hopes will help them to reassure travellers that it is safe to return to Sri Lanka.

Here’s Fernando’s take on the current situation.

Malik Fernando, managing director, Resplendent Ceylon
Malik Fernando, managing director, Resplendent Ceylon

What is the situation like on the ground?

Since the unrest and serious shortages of a couple of months ago, stability has returned, and economic recovery plans are underway, led by the new president. A stabilisation plan was agreed with the International Monetary Fund last week. Travel advisories from key markets have been relaxed.

What impact is the country's economic crisis having on tourists? Will a tourist experience be impacted in any way?

A tourist can experience a normal holiday. All sites are open and not busy so it can be an even better experience than usual! The devaluation of the local currency means extra value for money.

What should tourists be aware of if they are travelling?

Tourists were never at risk amongst warm and hospitable Sri Lankans although the headlines seemed worrying. Resplendent Ceylon & other hotels operated normally throughout. The fuel situation is much improved; hotels and travel agents have had preferential access. An important aspect is that visiting Sri Lanka plays a vital role in our economic revival. And you will be engulfed with genuine warmth!

How damaging has a drop in tourism been for the country?

The growth in tourism over the past few years uplifted communities across the country. Fifteen percent of the population relies on the industry. The loss of tourism income on the back of major cost of living increases has been devastating. Drivers, guides, and local vendors have been the worst affected.

How has hotel occupancy been?

August is usually high season with the summer holidays. This year occupancies have been awful at 10-20%. With the lifting of the advisories, bookings have started picking up.

Why is it more important than ever that tourists visit now?

Tourism brings in foreign currency which Sri Lanka is short of. It results in rapid distribution of benefits to all levels of rural communities - hotel staff, local vendors, guides, drivers. Foreign visitors can enjoy a perfectly normal, memorable holiday whilst making a critical contribution to our recovery.

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