China and the U.S. have warned their citizens about traveling to Sri Lanka after a series of explosions there on Easter Sunday killed over 300 people, including 32 foreigners.
The warnings come as a blow to Sri Lanka’s fast-growing tourism sector, which has already been hit by last year’s political turmoil.
A spate of bombings on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Sunday over 300 people and wounded more than 500 others. The country is under a state of emergency, and its capital, Colombo, is under curfew amid warnings of further attacks and fears of communal violence.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the attacks, but the authorities have blamed local militants with links to foreign networks.
On Tuesday, the Chinese embassy warned its citizens in Sri Lanka to stay away “in the near term” from crowded areas and pay attention to safety reminders.
“If Chinese citizens insist on going (to Sri Lanka) after this warning is issued, they will bring enormous security risks to their parties and make it difficult for the embassy to provide effective assistance,” the advisory said in Chinese.
The U.S. State Department on Sunday also issued an advisory that Americans should “exercise increased caution” in Sri Lanka. “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka,” said the advisory, which cited tourist locations, markets, hotels, clubs and restaurants among possible targets.
Impact on holidaymakers
Tourism arrivals in Sri Lanka reached 2.33 million in 2018 — 10.3 percent higher than a year earlier, and some 420 percent more than in 2009, data from the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority showed.
The twin warnings will continue to put pressure on Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which makes up nearly 5 percent of its economy and is the island state’s third largest and fastest growing source of foreign currency, according to Reuters.
Akhil Bery, South Asia analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, said the Easter bombings could have a significant impact on the country’s economy.
“Given that Sri Lanka’s economy is so dependent on tourism — and especially given that a lot of its policy-making is geared towards its difficulties with foreign exchange — and with tourism being a significant source of foreign exchange for the Sri Lankan economy, this could have significant short-term and long-term implications,” Bery told CNBC’s Nanacy Hungerford on Monday.