Sri Lanka's hotels, beaches, eateries now empty of tourists - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Sri Lanka's hotels, beaches, eateries now empty of tourists

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena). In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, the 17th century built Dutch fort, which was a popular tourist site, stands empty in Galle, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide’s top travel destination for 2019, but sinc... (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena). In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, the 17th century built Dutch fort, which was a popular tourist site, stands empty in Galle, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide’s top travel destination for 2019, but sinc...
(AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena). In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan street painter looks at his mobile phone as locals stand along the 17th century Dutch built rampart of the Galle fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet ... (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena). In this Friday, May 10, 2019, photo, a Sri Lankan street painter looks at his mobile phone as locals stand along the 17th century Dutch built rampart of the Galle fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet ...
  • NationalMore>>

  • Hate makes a comeback in the Pacific Northwest

    Hate makes a comeback in the Pacific Northwest

    Saturday, May 25 2019 11:11 AM EDT2019-05-25 15:11:13 GMT
    Monday, May 27 2019 12:53 AM EDT2019-05-27 04:53:39 GMT
    (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File). FILE - In this May 22, 2001, file photo, Norm Gissel smiles as he talks about the imminent dismantling of the former headquarters of the Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Behind Gisel is a Nazi insignia painted atop...(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File). FILE - In this May 22, 2001, file photo, Norm Gissel smiles as he talks about the imminent dismantling of the former headquarters of the Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Behind Gisel is a Nazi insignia painted atop...
    (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File). FILE - In this May 22, 2001, file photo, Norm Gissel smiles as he talks about the imminent dismantling of the former headquarters of the Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Behind Gisel is a Nazi insignia painted atop...(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File). FILE - In this May 22, 2001, file photo, Norm Gissel smiles as he talks about the imminent dismantling of the former headquarters of the Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Behind Gisel is a Nazi insignia painted atop...
    Nearly two decades after the Aryan Nations compound was demolished in Idaho, far-right extremists are again drawing attention in the Pacific Northwest.More
    Nearly two decades after the Aryan Nations compound was demolished in Idaho, far-right extremists are again drawing attention in the Pacific Northwest.More
  • 137-year-old Winchester rifle found in Nevada has new home

    137-year-old Winchester rifle found in Nevada has new home

    Sunday, May 26 2019 10:41 AM EDT2019-05-26 14:41:15 GMT
    Monday, May 27 2019 12:53 AM EDT2019-05-27 04:53:34 GMT
    A 137-year-old rifle discovered in 2014 leaning against a juniper tree at Great Basin National Park has a new home in an exhibit dedicated to the "Forgotten Winchester" at the park visitor center near the...More
    A 137-year-old rifle discovered in 2014 leaning against a juniper tree at Great Basin National Park has a new home in an exhibit dedicated to the "Forgotten Winchester" at the park visitor center near the Nevada-Utah line.More
  • Overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn't turn back the clock to 1973

    Overturning Roe v. Wade wouldn't turn back the clock to 1973

    Sunday, May 26 2019 11:51 AM EDT2019-05-26 15:51:15 GMT
    Monday, May 27 2019 12:53 AM EDT2019-05-27 04:53:28 GMT
    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, April 26, 1989 file photo, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sit...(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, April 26, 1989 file photo, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sit...
    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, April 26, 1989 file photo, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sit...(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, April 26, 1989 file photo, Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe in the 1973 court case, left, and her attorney Gloria Allred hold hands as they leave the Supreme Court building in Washington after sit...
    What if Roe v. Wade, the ruling establishing abortion rights nationwide, were overturned? New options for birth control and abortion mean the clock can't be turned back to 1973.More
    What if Roe v. Wade, the ruling establishing abortion rights nationwide, were overturned? New options for birth control and abortion mean the clock can't be turned back to 1973.More

By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI
Associated Press

HIKKADUWA, Sri Lanka (AP) - Sipping fresh coconut water while sunbathing on deserted Hikkaduwa beach, Alexi Konchayenko, a sports trainer from Ukraine, struck a stoical note.

Bomb blasts can happen "anywhere, anytime," he said, adding that he was not afraid. "Sri Lanka is an amazing country. This is my first visit and I will tell my friends also to come."

His is a lone voice - and a lone presence. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide's top travel destination for 2019, but since the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels, foreign tourists have fled.

Many of those booked to come in the next few months have canceled. Hotel occupancy across the island has plummeted by 85% to 90%. The tropical beaches, restaurants and shops are empty.

The coordinated suicide bombings on April 21 not only destroyed lives but also wiped out the livelihoods of Sri Lankans who depend on tourism.

More than 250 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and the U.K., died in the Islamic State group-claimed blasts.

Tourists normally come to Hikkaduwa, in the southwest, for the strong waves that are perfect for surfing and sparkling clear waters made for snorkeling. Today, of the 27 hotels, very few are open. Most, along with the eateries that line the 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) stretch of palm-fringed beach, are closed.

Among the few hotels still open is Hikkaduwa Beach Hotel. On April 21, all 50 rooms were occupied; today, only a handful. "It's a real disaster. We don't know what to do right now," said Sanjeewani Yogarajah, an executive with the hotel. She said the attack has cost the hotel 5.5 million Sri Lankan rupees ($31,000), forcing the hotel's management to send half the staff home.

Some tourism officials say the damage to the industry after the bombings is worse than during the 26-year civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government which ended a decade ago. At least then, the violence was mostly contained to the north of Sri Lanka, they said. This time, no part of the island has remained untouched by the blasts.

Lankesha Ponnamperuma, general manager of hotel chain Hikka Tranz, is one of the luckier ones. While most hotels report wholesale cancellations, he is surviving thanks to business from local residents. Last Friday, two-thirds of the 150 rooms were booked, mostly by domestic tourists.

"I haven't sacked anyone yet. Instead, we are training our people to adjust their expenditure and helping them restructure their bank loans," Ponnamperuma said.

The president of Sri Lanka's Hotels Association, Sanath Ukwatta, said hotels have offered 30-50% discounts to entice local residents.

Such a strategy won't solve the problem, he said, but will "help at least to keep the hotels going."

The manager of a clothing shop said the owner had shut the group's other two shops and the factory too. "Business collapsed after April 21," said Kumari, who declined to give her surname.

According to government figures, there has been an 80% drop in arrivals since the attack. Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka's GDP. Last year, 2.3 million tourists visited the island, generating $4.4 billion in revenues, a nearly 12% jump from 2017. Around half a million Sri Lankans directly depend on tourism while 2 million depend on it indirectly.

One of them is Mohomed Musflick, the owner of a souvenir shop in Galle which is full of wood carvings, local paintings and postcards. "I have not sold one item. There are no tourists and we are in a huge crisis," he said.

While life is gradually returning to normal on the island with offices and schools re-opening, the tourism industry is in a somber mood over the slump in foreign tourists. Tour operators from Russia, Norway and Britain have canceled bookings going right up to April 2020.

A travel ban issued by nearly a dozen countries is the greatest cause for concern. "The ban is our main worry. Until it is removed or softened, we can't start our marketing to attract tourists. If it is lifted soon, we are hopeful we can bounce back this year or otherwise definitely next year for sure," said Yogarajah.

In the meantime, Sri Lanka's government should target "people and countries resilient to this kind of attacks and situations, such as Russia, Israel and India," said Anusha Frydman, managing director of the Lavanga Resort and Spa.

The industry is clear about what else it wants from the authorities: Ensure that stringent security measures are in place to reassure potential visitors; persuade politicians to put their differences aside and adopt a bipartisan approach on national security; and work fast to get the travel ban lifted.

To help the industry cope, the government has put together a relief package comprising easy loans at special rates and reduced taxes. The government also plans to formulate a $100 million insurance fund for compensation to any tourist injured or killed while visiting the island.

"In the past we have had many serious crises and we have recovered. I am quite positive we can do it again," said Jan van Twest, general manager of the Fortress Resort and Spa near Galle, where 750 room nights have been canceled from May to October.

"But we need to recover, recover very fast," he said.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • InternationalMore>>

  • The Latest: Trumps and emperor, empress, exchange gifts

    The Latest: Trumps and emperor, empress, exchange gifts

    Sunday, May 26 2019 8:51 PM EDT2019-05-27 00:51:28 GMT
    Monday, May 27 2019 12:53 AM EDT2019-05-27 04:53:06 GMT
    Trump and Japan's Emperor Naruhito walked along a red carpet in the courtyard of the Imperial Palace after meeting on Monday amid pomp and pageantry.More
    Trump and Japan's Emperor Naruhito walked along a red carpet in the courtyard of the Imperial Palace after meeting on Monday amid pomp and pageantry.More
  • 30 dead, 200 missing after boat sinking on Congo lake

    30 dead, 200 missing after boat sinking on Congo lake

    Sunday, May 26 2019 3:31 PM EDT2019-05-26 19:31:38 GMT
    Monday, May 27 2019 12:52 AM EDT2019-05-27 04:52:55 GMT
    Authorities in western Congo say at least 30 people are dead and another 200 are missing after a boat sank on a lake.More
    Authorities in western Congo say at least 30 people are dead and another 200 are missing after a boat sank on a lake.More
  • Brexit Party wins, Conservatives bashed in UK's EU voting

    Brexit Party wins, Conservatives bashed in UK's EU voting

    Sunday, May 26 2019 11:01 AM EDT2019-05-26 15:01:14 GMT
    Monday, May 27 2019 12:52 AM EDT2019-05-27 04:52:52 GMT
    (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, file). FILE - In this Friday, May 24, 2019 file photo, British Prime Minister Theresa May walks away after announcing her resignation, outside 10 Downing Street in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has announ...(AP Photo/Alastair Grant, file). FILE - In this Friday, May 24, 2019 file photo, British Prime Minister Theresa May walks away after announcing her resignation, outside 10 Downing Street in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has announ...
    (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, file). FILE - In this Friday, May 24, 2019 file photo, British Prime Minister Theresa May walks away after announcing her resignation, outside 10 Downing Street in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has announ...(AP Photo/Alastair Grant, file). FILE - In this Friday, May 24, 2019 file photo, British Prime Minister Theresa May walks away after announcing her resignation, outside 10 Downing Street in London, England. British Prime Minister Theresa May has announ...
    Anti-EU and pro-EU parties look set to make gains in a Brexit-dominated election for British seats in the European Parliament, while the governing Conservative Party is bracing for one of its worst-ever performances.More
    Anti-EU and pro-EU parties look set to make gains in a Brexit-dominated election for British seats in the European Parliament, while the governing Conservative Party is bracing for one of its worst-ever performances.More
Powered by Frankly

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2019 WBOC. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices