Indian holidaymakers start to cancel Sri Lankan trips

There have been large-scale cancellations by Indian tourists to Sri Lanka in the aftermath of Sunday’s tragic serial blasts in the island nation, hitting India’s out-bound tourism industry adversely at the start of the peak tourist season.

Tourism industry sources said Indian tourists accounted for the largest chunk of tourist arrivals, as also topped the list of largest spenders in Sri Lanka in the recent years, after the island nation regained its position as a favoured international tourist destination following years of ethnic strife in the 1990s-early 2000s.

Sri Lanka, which attracted 380,000 Indian tourists in 2017, had targeted 440,000 tourists from India last year.

Tourism and travel industry executives told Arabian Business that there have been thousands of cancellations in tourism-related travel plans by Indians to Sri Lanka, beginning from Sunday afternoon, after news spread of the serial blasts in that country, in which more than 200 people lost their lives.

“Ever since Sunday evening, requests have been pouring in for cancellation of travel plans by our customers to Sri Lanka,” Gaurav Chawla, managing director of Swan Tours, a Delhi-based tour and travel company that specialises in tour packages to Sri Lanka.

“We have just received cancellation requests from the organiser of a travel group of 65 persons to Sri Lanka, with whom we have been working with chalking out their itinerary and other programmes for a month and who has remitted the money only on Saturday,” Chawla added.

Chawla said besides Indian tourists, their company also send large number of international tourists to India to Sri Lanka on extended tour plans at minimal cost.

“All such extended tour plans of foreign tourists are also getting cancelled now,” he said.

Senior executives at other leading tour agencies in other Indian cities also said also received requests for cancellations.

Industry sources said Sri Lanka is expected to start strict screening of passengers at their airports in the wake of Sunday’s deadly blasts, causing major inconvenience to holidaymakers.

Busy season

April-June is the busy season for outbound tourism from India, mainly on account of closure of schools and colleges in the country for summer holidays.

“The large-scale cancellation of Indian tourist visits to Sri Lanka will have a major impact on India’s out-bound tourism industry, as Sri Lanka used to be one of the leading and affordable international destinations for travellers from India. This destination will be off the radar of Indian travellers at least for the next 2-4 months,” E M Najeeb, senior VP, IATO (Indian Association of Tour Operators), told Arabian Business.

Najeeb, however, said he expected part of the cancelled tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka will be diverted to some Indian states, helping increase in domestic tourism.

States like Kerala, which is preparing to receive Monsoon tourist arrivals from next month onward, could be a major beneficiary of this diverted tourist traffic from Sri Lanka, he said.

Chawla said travellers who have booked for Sri Lanka, could now be planning to visit alternate destinations such Kiev, Vietnam and Cambodia as the ticket costs to these places are almost the same as it is to Sri Lanka, at about $260 per person.

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