Updated: Nov 15, 2021
The tourism industry has welcomed the Health Ministry’s decision to revoke the requirement of a PCR test at the airport, saying the decision would boost tourist numbers.Under new guidelines, people who have negative results from a PCR test carried out 72 hours prior to arriving at the Colombo airport will not have to undergo a further PCR test when they land.
This means all passengers who have received two jabs for COVID-19 and have a negative PCR test prior to arriving in the country will be able to walk in free.
Sri Lanka Inbound Tourists Operators (SLAITO) said already the number of tourists visiting the country had increased. Some 12,700 tourists arrived last month compared to 5,040 arrivals in August, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. The visitors were from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and Pakistan.
From January to August, just 24,377 visitors arrived in the country, most members of the diaspora visiting family, SLAITO past president Mahen Kariyawasam said. He also said arrival numbers improved considerably since the requirement for 14 days’ quarantine was reduced to one day with a mandatory PCR test showing a negative result. Tourists have to remain within a hotel only for a day until their results came in.
The requirement for $US50,000 medical insurance covering COVID-19 treatment and hospital care remains. “We already are getting positive vibes and there have been number of enquiries from potential visitors,” Mr. Kariyawasam said.
Nevertheless, he said, more was required: the practice of issuing visas on arrival had to be reintroduced so that visitors were not forced to pay and obtain visas online. They also had to obtain prior hotel bookings and travel insurance cover, and this sometimes took up to three days to achieve.
“We had the best system in the world in issuing visas on arrival. We are talking to the authorities to reintroduce this facility and give visitors opportunity to buy insurance at airports,” he said.
The Hotels Association is anxiously waiting for new business following massive losses during lockdown periods when no tourists came to Sri Lanka. President Sanath Ukwatte expressed optimism that the tourism would speedily pick up. “People love to travel,” he said.
During the lockdown, many hotels joined hands with the health sector to provide intermediary care to mild and first contact patients but this business has decreased due to the number of persons requiring quarantine reducing drastically.
The government has embarked on a tourism promotion spree, targeting niche markets such as the “digital nomads” who look for countries that offer long visitor stays. Sri Lanka has been recognised as a top destination for this growing segment in which people seeking to escape a busy city life look for extended visits to picturesque locations where they can enjoy a “technology-driven lifestyle”, tourism promotion bureau Director General Dhammika Wijesinghe said.
There is interest from European countries such as Germany, France and The Netherlands as well as the United Kingdom and India, he said. Sri Lanka currently grants stays up to one year for the visitor category “digital nomads”.
The tourism bureau has also held webinars with the tourism sector in countries such as India and Vietnam to encourage tourists to visit Sri Lanka.
Original Article : https://www.sundaytimes.lk/211003/news/waiver-of-second-pcr-test-brings-quick-profit-at-arrivals-gate-2-457173.html