Sri Lanka fears up to $1.5 billion tourism losses

Minister Mangala Samaraweera

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry fears losing around $1.5 billion in revenue this year due to Sunday’s attacks, the country’s Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.

“Tourism will be the worst affected,” Samaraweera told reporters in Colombo on Friday.

“We expect a 30 percent drop in arrivals and that means a loss of about $1.5 billion in foreign exchange.”

He said the country could take up to two years to fully recover from Sunday’s attacks, which devastated three luxury hotels and three Christian churches and killed 253 people killed, among them many foreigners.

“Typically, countries that suffer isolated IS-style attacks see tourism recovering within one-to-two years, as long as root causes are addressed and security measures taken are well communicated,” the minister said.

He pointed to Belgium, France, Spain and Tunisia as countries which recovered their tourism markets within a short time.

Samaraweera said tourism was emerging as Sri Lanka’s success story when Sunday´s blast shattered hopes of reaching a revenue of $5.0 billion, up from last year’s $4.4 billion.

Official figures show that tourist arrivals in the first quarter of this year jumped 4.6 percent to 740,600 from a year earlier.

Samaraweera said he was hoping to unveil a package of concessions to help the tourism sector weather the impact of the suicide bombings.

Most of the deluxe hotels in Colombo have stepped up security and curtailed bookings amid fears of more attacks.

(AFP / Ada Derana)