Sri Lanka's economic crisis casts shadow on tourism

STORY: Sri Lanka's southern city of Galle, with its sandy beaches and ancient fort should be awash with holidaymakers at this time of year.

Instead, power cuts and essential food, medicine and fuel shortages have hit the island nation hard for weeks.

Plunging it deeper into its worst economic crisis since independence.

And dashing hopes that this part of the country could once more become the booming tourist destination it was before the global health crisis halted halted travel in 2020.

Samitha, who works at the Galle Fort Hotel says the business is struggling and bookings are down.

“The political crisis is there. People are protesting. Roads are blocked. And for the tourist they need to travel and they need fuel for that, they can’t wait in the queues, you know. So, they are seeing that (those) kind of things on the news. So, yeah, that kind of thing is affecting, really affecting.”

The country’s crippling shortages have brought protesters out onto the streets, calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

On Tuesday (April 19), one person died in a protest - the first fatality since the demonstrations began last month.

In March, Sri Lanka’s tourism office said monthly tourist arrivals crossed the 100,000 mark for the first time in two years.

But since then daily arrivals have fallen from 3,600 per day in early April, to 2,500 in the second half of the month - dashing hopes of a robust revival.

Tourism earned Sri Lanka $4.4 billion and contributed 5.6% to GDP in 2018, but this dropped to just 0.8% in 2020.

Despite the economic crisis , some intrepid travellers, like Tatyana from Germany, are unfazed.

“So this is a beautiful country and it really worths (warrants) a visit here, but you should be prepared like having your own power bank to have your electricity in your pocket and you should be a bit flexible. Like, if you can’t go to the next city on this day, change your plans and go on the next day and then it is really nice here. But without being flexible, forget it.”

Sri Lanka’s economic recovery is expected to take months, if not years, as it seeks more than $3 billion from sources including the International Monetary Fund, India and the World Bank.

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