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Nearly 200,000 tourists visit Lanka in 2021

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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has welcomed 194,495 tourists in 2021, down from around 2.3 million in 2018 before the pandemic, with 89,506 arrivals in December up from just 393 the previous year, data from the state tourism promotion office showed.

Sri Lanka welcomed 241,663 tourists in December 2019, 228,000 in January and 207,000 in February 2020 when airports were shut to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa told reporters last week that they are targeting 2.5 million tourists in 2022.

Sri Lanka welcomed 507,311 tourists in 2020, who arrived before airports closed in March due to Coronavirus.

In the first four days of January 2022, a total of 11,380 tourists had arrived in the island with 2,032 Russian visitors, according to a news report quoting Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga.

Sri Lanka Tourism data showed from December 1-26 a total of 69,941 tourists arrived in the country, with 19,565 holidaymakers arriving in the last five days of of the month.

The largest source markets recorded for the month of December were India, Russia,

the United Kingdom, followed by Germany and Ukraine.

Although most tourists came from Europe, there are concerns withing the industry of a setback after the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in European countries as they trigger travel restrictions.

“Even though signs of recovery were evident, the uncertainty for the travel industry is mounting again with countries already practicing restrictions and border closures with the emergence of the new Omicron variant,” a Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority report said.

“It is anticipated that, increasing cases in Europe will further dampen consumer confidence which was gradually building after the devastating Delta variant.”

A total of 56,268 Indians had visited the country in 2021 out of 194,495 tourists in 2021.

Russia generated 16,894 visitors in 2021, The UK 16,646 visitors, Germany 12,442 and Ukraine 7,037.

Chinese travelers, the second largest source market for tourists in pre-COVID times remained the lowest with only 2,417 visiting the island for the whole of 2021.

Although the concerns over the European market looms and as China remains closed for outbound travel, Sri Lanka is confident it will generate 200,000 or 100,000 tourists per month in 2022.

SLTDA chief Kimarli Fernando told a forum in December that they are expecting 100,000 tourist arrivals per month in 2022 and are hopeful of attracting Indian visitors.

The island welcomed its highest number of tourists ever in 2018 with 2.3 million arrivals that dipped to 1.9 million following the Easter Sunday bombings in 2019.

However McKinsey & Company, a business consultancy, said the Sri Lanka market may take time to recover as China remains closed and the rise of COVID-19 infections in the European markets.

The consultancy predicted that Sri Lanka will return to 2019 levels by 2024 but reaching 2018 levels may take five years.



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“Foreign bond holders more important to govt. than hard-pressed people”

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SJB slams GR’s policy speech

The main opposition SJB says that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Policy Speech delivered in Parliament on Jan 18 failed to provide solutions to the crises faced by the country.

Addressing a press briefing held at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo on Thursday, SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne said that the crises with regard to economic management and governance had gone beyond the control of the government subjecting the masses to severe hardships without essential goods and services.

Wickremaratne said that  there had been no increase in the value of  GDP supporting the domestic and foreign borrowings by this government during the last two years.

He accused the government of giving priority to paying off debts of foreign cronies while  starving the people without essential foods inclusive of fuel for electricity generation.

“People who could not afford to basic necessities despite having cash in hand due to the shortage of dollars and foreign exchange now had to stay in the dark for several hours a day without electricity due to lack of fuel as the govt has not been able to maintain a supply chain properly. But the government, having crossed its wires, gives priority to repaying the loan to its cronies while mounting pressure on its citizens,” Wickremaratne said.

“President Rajapaksa’s Throne Speech did not provide answers to any of  the current problems  facing the country. Although the country faced two major problems, there was no answer to either of them in the President’s policy statement.

“First, rising commodity prices push up inflation increasing  vegetable prices. Secondly, the import of essential commodities has come to a complete standstill due to the foreign exchange deficit. There is a shortage not only for  food and fuel but also for  medicines for the people.”

He said only 25% of the country’s essential medicines are produced locally and the rest are imported. There is also a shortage of essential medicines due to lack of dollars for imports.

At a time when the people are under so much of  pressure, the government is  boasting of servicing   international sovereign bonds on time. People need to be told the secret of why foreign debtors are more important to the government than the citizens of the country, Wickremaratne said.

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COVID-19 on the rise again; 800+ new cases a second day running

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(Economynext) New COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Sri Lanka, with health authorities detecting over 800 new infections on Thursday (20) for a second consecutive day.

With the 827 new cases, total cases in the country have gone up to 599,363, official data showed.

Around 15,279 patients are currently receiving treatment in hospital or at home.

With 12 deaths reported in the last 24 hour period, the island nation’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 15,243.

Health authorities warned that the sector could face challenges managing new patients if daily cases continue to surge.

Officials are also concerned about an apparent hesitance for the booster dose of the vaccine that was largely absent in the initial rollout.

“We have provided the opportunity to get the booster countrywide. But because the fatality rate is now low people may think taking it is no longer necessary,” State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production Channa Jayasumana said speaking to journalists on Friday (21).

“Sri Lanka will go back to the previous state with people not taking the booster dose,” he warned.

The booster rate is very low compared to Sri Lanka’s otherwise impressive vaccination numbers, said Jayasumana.

“Only 4.8 million have taken the booster so far, and only 26,796 came forward yesterday to get it.

“With the increase of patients, even though the fatality rate is low, it can be overwhelming for the health sector if patient numbers in hospital wards and ICUs go up.”

Sri Lanka has so far vaccinated 16.3 with the first dose while 13.8 have received both doses.

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Prevention, cooperation, mutual assistance essential to counter connected nature of terrorists in South Asia – Army Chief

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Prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential to counter the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in the South Asian region, said Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva on Thursday, emphasising on the need of law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies.”

“In the legitimate government efforts to fight terrorism or organised crimes, in this regard, a possible South Asian regional treaty could promote counter-terrorism and anti-crime measures by promoting institutional structures and decision-making processes to promote cooperation, coordination, shared expertise and common legal approaches,” said Silva while virtually addressing the “Countering use of Crypto Currencies to Finance Terrorism” event on Thursday.

“Due to the transnational and connected nature of terrorists and criminal activists in our region, prevention, cooperation and mutual assistance in controlled measures at international borders are essential,” he added.

The General also said that there are avenues for collaboration by establishing information exchange at customs, imposing immigration barriers and commonly agreeing on the regulation of transporting and stockpiling of weapons and drugs, dangerous goods or potential warlike equipment.

Emphasising that mutual assistance can be enhanced by extending measures for collecting evidence of suspects, exchange of wanted personnel and etc, Silva said that enhancing the capacities of regional countries to handle terrorism and criminals would depend extensively on the training of law enforcement agencies.

“Apart from training for military personnel, of a particular country, it is also essential to carry out joint training for various armed forces of the South Asian region. Conducting counter-terrorism operations at a regional scale would also require regional funding. It is understood that funding counter-terrorism campaigns in recent times has become quite expensive due to the sophistication of insurgence,” Silva added.

The General also said that “this is where we need cooperation as very experience armies, who have long been engaging in counter-terrorism operations, we have specialities, therefore we can share each other’s specialities to counter each other’s imitations.”

“Law enforcement’s institutional reforms based on common and agreed policies and principles in the regional countries feel enhanced the compatibility between the countries in fighting transnational crimes and terrorism,” he added. (ANI)

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