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Lanka’s tourism push struggles amid internal, external concerns

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By MAHADIYA HAMZA

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s tourism revival is facing a challenge in bringing in more high spending foreign visitors due to increasing protests locally while monetary tightening, impacts of Russian invasion into Ukraine, and rising inflation globally.The move is likely to slow the island nation’s recovery from the unprecedented economic crisis as it is unlikely to achieve its expected revised down tourism revenue target of $1.5 billion.

The number of arrivals suffered in September and fell to as low as 29,000, its lowest in 11 months. The tourism authorities have cited “bad publicity” about Sri Lanka in the international media including global reportage of fuel and food scarcity as the key reason for the drop.

Monthly arrivals to the Indian Ocean island nation plummeted in September to around 29,000 from as high as 106,000 in March this year mainly due to the economic crisis which later turned into a political crisis and forced then president, prime minister and the government to resign amid public protests.In October, however, the arrivals rebound by 41 percent from the previous month to 42,000.

The industry was hopeful of cashing in on winter holiday makers during the three months from November and marketing the country as an economical holiday destination amid growing commodity prices in the West after the Ukraine war.The plan was to attract long-haul travelers with sharp depreciation of the rupee causing foreigners to spend more.However, a growing crisis globally will pinch on the island’s tourism sector despite the vigorous efforts the industry has taken to come out of the economic and political crisis this year, industry analysts say.

The tourism authorities’ attempts to promote Sri Lanka among foreigners including in India, Europe, and the United States have yet to see some significant returns.

“Sri Lanka had the Russian airlines issues, the protests in the country and the travel advisory placed on it. But it has fought against all that,” Priyantha Fernando, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority told EconomyNext, referring to Russian Aeroflot’s decision to suspend Sri Lankan operation over a legal battle.

“However we cannot do anything about the external issues. There are long queues forming in European and Western countries too,” he said referring to gas and fuel queues.

“Those factors cannot be controlled.”

Global tourism industry has grown by 60 percent in the first seven months of this year compared to the previous year, according to a recently published United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report.However, it is only “cautiously optimistic” as the global economic environment still has not recovered.

The UNWTO cautions that the combination of tightening monetary policies in all major economies to curb rising inflation, increasing energy and food prices, and the growing prospects of a global recession as indicated by the World Bank, are major threats to the recovery of international tourism through the remainder of 2022 and 2023.”

“The uncertain economic environment seems to have nonetheless reversed prospects for a return to pre-pandemic levels in the near term,” UNWTO said.

“Rising inflation and the spike in oil prices results in higher transport and accommodation costs, while

putting consumer purchasing power and savings under pressure.”

Locally, Sri Lanka is threatened by reemerging protests against increasing taxes, and long delayed reforms, which have become mandatory for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to move away from economic crisis. The IMF backing is now seen as a must for other countries and multilateral creditors to support the island nation to face the economic crisis.

The government has aimed at a revised down $1.8 billion foreign inflow from tourism this year in October after aiming at $2.5 billion in March. However, industry officials now say, they can only reach less than $1,5 billion revenue in 2022.

Sri Lanka so far has generated 568,258 travelers for the first 10-months.After Russia recommenced flights to Sri Lanka in October, four months after suspending the operations following a legal spat, Russian tourist numbers have started to rise compared to the previous months.Many airlines have now resumed flights to Sri Lanka including Russia-based Aeroflot and AZUR as well as Air France in the last one month.

“There’s a slight pick up (hotel booking) with some Indian traffic and Sri Lankan expatriates at the moment. But we believe the actual pick up will start from January next year,” Sanath Ukwatte, immediate-past President of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka.However, industry experts say Indian tourists usually do not spend much like European tourists, which is the island nation’s key market.

Russia and its neighborhood countries show better arrivals, but they mainly go to resorts, instead of city hotels where the bulk of hotel rooms are available.

“Hotel bookings are averaging around 30% and we hope it to increase to about 40% by December, it is still way below our pre-covid levels,” Ukwatte said.



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Supreme Court Judge, President of the Appeal Court, Appeal Court Justice took oath before President

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(pic PMD)

Justice K. P. Fernando, President of the Court of Appeal took oath as a Supreme Court Judge before President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (06) at the President’s House in Fort.

Court of Appeal Justice Mr. Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne took oath as the President of the Court of Appeal while High Court Judge M.A.R. Marikkar was also sworn in as a Judge of the Court of Appeal before President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Commanders of the Tri Forces and other officials attended this event.

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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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