‘Only cancel bookings you have to’, says former Sri Lankan tourism chief
Jean Marc Flamert, former director of tourism for the Sri Lankan tourist board in the UK, appealed to operators and agents in a YouTube video today to continue its support for the country following the terror attacks on Easter Sunday.
On Thursday, the Foreign Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka, saying terrorists are very likely to try to carry out indiscriminate attacks, including in places visited by foreigners.
Operators with programmes in Sri Lanka said they have cancelled bookings and started re-booking customers to alternative destinations.
Flambert said: “Only cancel and change those bookings you have to and by that I mean in the next week or two weeks because the people of Sri Lanka will bounce back. We have many times before.
“The people of Sri Lanka are resilient and welcoming and you know as well as I do they will look after all of your guests.
“Please, any new bookings, take them for the weeks and months ahead. Any present bookings, try to hold on before you cancel them.”
Flambert said while tourism is not the country’s biggest industry, it is a “very important one”.
He added that thousands of visitors in Sri Lanka were still “enjoying themselves”.
“BBC and CNBC is showing you one side and that is a very real, sad side of the country, but as you know, it’s huge, it’s 25,000 miles and we have hundreds of miles between Colombo and beaches and some of our cultural hertitage sights.
“A lot of Sri Lanka is running normally. We are sad but there is hope and with your help there will be ven greater hope.”
Aito director Sam Clark, of Experience Travel Group, which specialises in Asia, including Sri Lanka, said: “The attacks on Easter Sunday were a shock to us all after the past ten years of peace and stability in Sri Lanka.
“It won’t put me off visiting this delightful destination, but of course it is likely to cause a stall in visitor numbers for the next few months, which will adversely affect local suppliers and thus, unfortunately, fulfil one of the terrorists’ aims.”
He added: “I am confident that Sri Lanka’s cultural and wildlife/safari offerings, coupled with its amazing coastline and beaches, and of course its charming and welcoming people, will assert a powerful draw to keen travellers before long.
“I know, too, that the welcome to those who visit will be the warmest and most hospitable that Sri Lankans can make it.
“Having been in touch with some of our clients in Sri Lanka personally over the last few days, I’ve told them that they are probably safer staying where they are, as long as they follow the FCO advice; they agree with me and are making the most of their trip to this jewel of an island.”
The Sri Lankan has government revised down the death toll from last Sunday’s terror attacks from 350 to around 250.