The Burden of Sri Lanka’s Democracy Rattling its Vibrant Tourism Sector
Tourism is a major economic activity for Sri Lanka that has exponentially grown since 1970. With annual visits by the travel community in 2017 reaching 2,116,407, tourism is among the major earners for the country.
However, recent revelations on the country’s democracy brought about by a presidential coup threatens and to some extent, has affected the movement of travel communities to the country. The President, Maithripala Sirisena overstepped his constitutional limits when he sacked the sitting Prime Minister, dissolved cabinet, suspended parliament and announced snap elections scheduled for January 5, 2019.
The Political Situation
For a country that tanks itself as a tourist attraction destination, the political situation surely remains uncertain after events beginning with the sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister, unraveled.
The Island’s political instability came after the strained relationship between the Prime Minister and the President reached its breaking point in early November 2018. As the situation was at the time, the Islands Prime Minister refused to leave office or the official residence, stating that his termination was unconstitutional. He still states that he is the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, the President is working with a former enemy, now an ally, Mahinda Rajapaksa to succeed Ranil Wickremesinghe. Mahinda has been accused before by the President for war crimes during the Island’s civil war as well as blamed for the country’s piling debt. The President had turned on him in the 2015 elections which surprises many as to why the two would team up again.
The outcome of the Travel Community
The country is in political headwinds due to the unexpected outcome, especially considering the snap elections to be held on January 5.
In the meantime, it’s no secret that the political stalemate is a hindrance to the once-booming tourism industry. It is quite unfortunate that the Island broke into its current state after the well-renowned travel guide called Lonely Planet named the Island its “Best in Travel” for the year 2019. Sri Lanka currently receives over 2 million travelers annually and the sector plays a major role in the country’s economy. The sector is responsible for bringing an estimated $3.5 billion per year.
Due to the instability, it is common that the movement of travel communities to the region will be reduced. Most tourists are mindful of their safety especially in a country that may break into violence at any time.
Officials in the industry had expected a 10% rise but this is now changing as tour operators and hotels began reporting a spate of cancelations which will flatline or get worse if the stalemate continues. AFP wrote in a feature quoting a Colombo city hotel manager, who said that the political stalemate comes at a time when Europeans are planning their holidays abroad. They have even had cancellations from the United States.
Canada and United Kingdom are among the countries that have issued travel advisories against Sri Lanka telling their citizens to travel with caution and at their own risk.
This article was written exclusively for World Footprints by Victor Kanake.
Ed Malyon Galle, Sri Lanka @eaamalyon. (2018, November 06). Sri Lanka’s political turmoil is rattling its vital tourism sector. Retrieved January 3, 2019, from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/sri-lanka-political-news-crisis-tourism-travel-cricket-cricket-sirisena-wickremesinghe-a8620476.html
Global Affairs Canada. (2018, December 31). Travel Advice and Advisories for Sri Lanka. Retrieved January 3, 2019, from https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/sri-lanka
Commonwealth Office. (2018, December 03). Sri Lanka travel advice. Retrieved January 3, 2019, from https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/sri-lanka