China relaxes travel advisory for SL

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China on Saturday became the first country to tone down its travel advisory imposed on Sri Lanka post the Easter Sunday blasts, in a move that would help in reviving the tourism industry of the island nation hit hard by the terror attack.

The move came a day after Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appealed to the international community to lift the travel warnings, assuring that the security situation has improved in the country after the crackdown on Islamist groups and their networks.

“We are happy announce that the travel ban on visiting Sri Lanka implemented by China has now been toned down to ‘be cautious’ while travelling to Sri Lanka from ‘Do not travel to Sri Lanka’,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said today.

China is the second largest market, after India, for the Lankan tourism sector. The number of Chinese tourists to Lanka has been relatively steady at over 265,000 since the last three years.

Several countries, including India, US, UK and Australia, advised their citizens against non essential travel to Lanka after the terror attacks on three luxury hotels and three churches on April 21 that killed nearly 260 people, including over 40 foreigners.

This dealt a telling blow on the local tourism industry. Booking cancellations caused a 70 per cent slump in arrivals, the industry leaders said.

Tourism accounts for about five per cent of Lanka’s economy. Besides, India and China, the UK is also a major market. The country earned about USD 4.4 billion in 2018 from the tourism sector.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said April recorded 166,975 foreign tourists in the country compared to 180,429 in April 2018, a 7.5 per cent dip in arrival of tourists from abroad.