March 20, 2019

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    Govt. Keen to boost tourism industry - PM

    November 26, 2018

    The new government is very keen and focused on boosting the tourism industry which had been overlooked for the past three years, said Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was addressing the Tourism industry stake holders on current issues on Friday.

    He said he would re look at multiple taxes that are been imposed at various levels for the hotel industry and try to introduce a more friendly tax structure towards hoteliers. The Prime Minister also said that the government would look at introducing new regulation for the informal tourism sector that is now enjoying zero tax.

    Airing his views on the travel advisories, Rajapaksa said that there should be a regular dialog with the embassies and update them on the current political situation. The Prime Minister will launch a direct communication strategy through diplomatic missions to inform the global travel industry about the ongoing political situation in Sri Lanka, to ensure the growth in tourist arrivals.

    It was pointed out that the advisories only caution travelers from visiting Sri Lanka and not state to stay away from Sri Lanka. The premier said that this matter would be taken up by the Foreign Ministry and addressed.

    “The main reason for travel advisories is that insurance companies have increased their insurance premium considering Sri Lanka as a risky destination to travel. However, the government will try to get the premium reduced by explaining the real situation,” Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Upali Rathnayake said.

    Rajapaksa said that thought would be also given to a suggestion made by the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) and Sri Lanka Inbound Tour Operators Association (SLITO) to consider allowing India, China and Gulf nations to visit Sri Lanka and offer them free visa on arrival. Currently tourists have to apply online or pay on arrival to obtain a visa to visit Sri Lanka.

    “We request the Prime Minister to consider a temporarily removal of the ‘Online Visa system’ for a certain time frame for all countries,” said President, THASL Sanath Ukwatte. He said that they have noted that there are no major cancelations due to the current political situation.

    Arrivals in October had increased slightly by 5% as against previous year and industry has also showed a 10.6% growth so far this year.Ukwatte said that tourism stakeholders conveyed to the Prime Minister that they wanted the current political issue settled soon as it may have negative impact to the country.

    Colombo City Tourist Hotels Association President M. Shanthikumar said that the City hotels are facing cancelations only in the in the conference (MICE) market. “One conference scheduled for December has been shifted to Indonesia which some other events have been re scheduled.”He however said that the tourists are concerned about the ongoing street protests in Colombo and police and riot squads on the road.

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