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Sri Lanka Tourism gears up to welcome international visitors

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As Sri Lanka opens its doors to the world once again; Sri Lanka Tourism has pulled out all the stops, ensuring that every precautionary measure has been set in place to make the island getaway as safe, secure and serene as possible for the visitors. In this regard Sri Lanka Tourism has published ‘Safety Protocols’ to be followed by the tourism industry stakeholders and visitors. These protocols were issued by the Ministry of Health and adopted by Sri Lanka Tourism after a thorough analysis of the situation and following multiple consultations with all relevant stakeholders and health professionals to ensure a smooth transition to begin operations in the midst of this new normal.

As per the safety protocols published Sri Lanka does not require a minimum number of days to stay. i.e. visitors to the island can stay even 3 to 4 days. Also offers ‘Quarantine free’ visitor experience where the visitors are allowed to enjoy all facilities in their respective hotels including the swimming pools, spas, gym etc. However the only requirement put in place for the safety of the traveller, tourism stakeholders and Sri Lankan community is the need for the travellers to stay at a ‘Safe and Secure’ certified, Level 1 hotel or hotels in the initial 14 days of their stay. This ensures the creation of a bio-bubble for the international visitors assuring the safety of the local communities, employees of the industry and the visitors to the industry. The respective hotels and accommodation providers along with the travel agents and tour operators will be entrusted to ensure that visitors don’t break the bubble of safety.

‘Safe & Secure’ certified hotel

These are hotels or accommodation providers who comply with the COVID-19 Health Protocols and the Tourism Operational Guidelines (visit srilanka.travel for details of the Tourism Operational Guidelines issued). The hotels have been subjected to an audit by an independent audit firm and will be continually assessed. The ‘Safe & Secure’ certificate is issued with a QR code unique to each certified hotel. By scanning the QR code using a smartphone, visitors can not only check the key information of the certified hotel but also immediately report to Sri Lanka Tourism of any violations related to the guideline procedures with photo evidence. Sri Lanka Tourism believes this certification will serve as a mark of trust, safety and assurance to all international guests. Hotels with the certification are encouraged to display the certificate with the QR code that can be easily accessed by all guests.

‘Safe & Secure’ certified Level 1 hotel

From all the ‘Safe & Secure’ certified hotels, these are the accommodation service providers who will provide accommodation services exclusively for international tourists during the first 14 days of their stay. The level 1 hotels cannot accept bookings from locals and also are not allowed to hold any events or banquet functions for locals. International travellers are allowed to stay in any number of ‘Safe & Secure’ Certified Level 1 hotels during the initial 14 days of their stay. Visit srilanka.travel/helloagain for the complete list of Level 1 hotels.

As Sri Lanka opens its borders for international visitors, it will be mandatory for them to have a pre-booking at a ‘Safe & Secure’ Certified Level 1 hotel.

Process of applying for visa for international travellers

Visitors planning to visit Sri Lanka must apply for their visas online through the Immigration ETA portal (www.eta.gov.lk). Before applying for visa, potential visitors are required to have a confirmed hotel booking, pre-purchased PCR tests and a mandatory COVID-19 insurance cover.

The cost per PCR test will be $ 40 and pre-purchase PCR tests depending on the number of days of stay (eg: pay for 2 PCR tests for 7 days stay and 3 PCR tests if the travel exceeds 7 days).  Mandatory COVID-19 insurance cover from People’s Insurance PLC will cost $ 12 for a policy of $ 50,000 for a period of one month. Visitors are advised by Sri Lanka Tourism to contact their ‘Safe and Secure Level 1’ hotel or travel agent when making their booking. Upon the payment of the PCR tests and insurance premium, the hotel will issue a reference number which the visitors need to include in their visa form under the section ‘contact details’. There you will be asked for ‘address in Sri Lanka’ under which you need to indicate your hotel name, address and the reference number issued by the hotel confirming the payment for mandatory PCR and insurance premium.

Sri Lanka Tourism has made it mandatory for the hotels to provide confirmed booking number (reference number) only after collecting funds for necessary PCR tests ($ 40 per PCR test and number of PCR tests depends on the duration of stay) and Insurance premium of $12 for a cover of $50,000 for one month.

Going forward the visa process will be directed through the Sri Lanka Tourism’s mobile app; ‘Visit Sri Lanka’.

PCR testing for International visitors

All visitors, prior to boarding, will have to carry a negative PCR test result from an accredited laboratory 96 hours before their departure. This report will be checked at the respective airport (BIA or Mattala). The first of the prepaid PCR tests would be carried out on-arrival at the guest’s hotel; prior to check-in. The second PCR test would be conducted 5-7 days after, or if any symptoms should develop before. If a test should result as positive, initial isolation would be accommodated at the hotel; and if necessary, transfers to a private hospital or a designated hotel to be quarantined; would be arranged. Costs to be covered via your COVID-19 insurance, already paid for at the time of visa issuance. Currently no exceptions are made for vaccinations taken; all safety protocols should be adhered to regardless.

Visiting sites and attractions

Sri Lanka Tourism with the tourism industry has created a bio-bubble for international visitors to explore multiple sites and attractions in Sri Lanka: This include places such as, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Yala, Udawalawe, Kaudulla and Wilpaththu National Parks, Mirissa Whale Watching, Sigiriya Fortress, Anuradhapura (excluding ‘Sri Maha Bodhiya’) and Polonnaruwa to name a few. (Visit srilanka.travel/helloagain for complete list of approved sites).

Connecting with Sri Lanka Tourism for updates

Sri Lanka Tourism will take every possible step to provide the international visitors to the paradise island an amazing time while ensuring their safety, providing a safe and secure operational environment for the service providers of the tourism industry and ensuring that local communities are protected and secured. All information related to the re-opening for international travel are listed on srilanka.travel/helloagain along with important notices to the industry. Thus Sri Lanka Tourism invites all international travellers, industry stakeholders to connect with its social media and official channels to obtain timely, authentic information.



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Top agents from Kuwait visit Sri Lanka on familiarization tour

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Eleven of Kuwait’s top tour operators and travel agents arrived in Sri Lanka this week on Jazeera Airways on a familiarization tour. Jazeera Airways currently operates three flights weekly to Sri Lanka connecting the leisure and labour markets. The familiarization tour was organized and sponsored by Jazeera’s General Sales Agent in Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence PLC.

The familiarization group travelled and enjoyed the highlights of Sri Lanka during their stay in Sri Lanka. Commenting on the tour, Travel agent P Mayur stated “We love the Sri Lankan people’s smile, hospitality and their humbleness” We heard lots of negative news prior to our arrival, and were wondering if we were making the right decision. However, when we came into the country, our experiences were nothing negative”. I am definitely coming back to this beautiful country to enjoy the beaches with my family and it won’t be too long” Another member of the group Sami Malik stated that “it’s amazing to see how Sri Lankan’s love and preserve their cultural values of the country. The rich history and heritage are something our clients would love to discover in Sri Lanka”

The Jazeera airlines familiarization tour concluded with an awards ceremony recognizing the airlines top agents. The event was graced by the Minister of Tourism and Land Harin Fernando and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya.

Jazeera airlines has good connections in the Middle East region and can contribute to the revival of tourism in Sri Lanka by connecting the middle east travellers to the country. The agent familiarization tour is expected to contribute towards promoting destination Sri Lanka. Jazeera now operates three flights per week from Kuwait to Colombo; however, the airline expects to raise its frequency of flights per week by early 2023. Jazeera Airways operates its best-in-class Airbus 320 Neo aircraft to Colombo, connecting more than 50 destinations across the continents.

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Sysco LABS’ Managing Director, Shanil Fernando Emphasizes HR’s Role in Retaining Local Talent

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Shanil Fernando, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Sysco LABS Sri Lanka, recently spoke at the ‘Employing Tomorrow’s HR Today: The CEO’s Perspective’ panel discussion organized by the Association of HR Professionals Sri Lanka (AHRP).Representing the ICT industry, Shanil shared his insights on retaining and developing talent, unique people initiatives at Sysco LABS, and how emerging technologies like AI are transforming HR processes.

An industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in technology and innovation, Shanil highlighted the importance of HR’s role in transforming the workplace into a sanctuary that gives employees peace of mind to do their best work. Speaking about people challenges, he focused on the local tech industry’s current issue of attrition and emphasized the necessity for crafting a sound employee engagement and retention strategy that addresses both financial and mental well-being.

Alluding to the present economic crisis, he said: “The country’s key industries, including technology, are experiencing significant attrition at the moment. Collectively, retaining talent has become a major challenge. The primary reason for this migration is the socioeconomic impact of the current economic crisis. In order to mitigate this, the economic situation must be addressed urgently. High public taxes will also compound the problem. The government must take the necessary steps to reduce the burden put on the private sector by introducing significant reforms to non–performing State-Owned Enterprises, avoiding public funds being used to keep loss-making SOEs afloat. Privatization or listing such enterprises on the stock exchange will allow them to be scrutinized in the same manner as a well-run private company, ensuring true transparency and accountability. As organizations, what we can do is build mechanisms that insulate employees, as much as possible, from the impact of the current economic crisis. For example, if the company is at an advantage as a FOREX generator, they can share this advantage equitably with their employees.”

Shanil emphasized the importance of transforming modern-day HR professionals into strategic business partners who are creative, innovative and able to proactively deliver solutions. Elaborating on vital steps taken at Sysco LABS, to transform its people operations to be more strategic in identifying talent needs, he said: “We are a strong, culture-oriented company. The pandemic dampened our culture efforts in the last 2 years, but we’re now focused on rejuvenating this culture and HR must be a flexible change agent that works together with other business functions to enhance the workplace experience for everyone. At Sysco LABS, every associate is allocated an HR Business Partner who will support them throughout their entire journey at the company and ensure all their needs are met. This enables us to deliver a more wholesome work experience to our associates.”

Shanil also spoke about how emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) can transform the HR function, noting that AI creates opportunities for greater efficiency and more intelligent decision-making. He suggested that HR leaders must adopt AI as it gives businesses a critical edge when gauging future talent needs and understanding how to better create a compelling people experience.

Summing up the impact of initiatives implemented at Sysco LABS, Shanil said, “Sysco LABS is impacting a Fortune 100 company and a trillion-dollar, global industry from here in Sri Lanka. Our people are our most precious resource, and we strive to make the workplace a sanctuary for all of them. We want our associates to feel supported and cared for, with our initiatives driving engagement and camaraderie reflecting that. It’s these initiatives that have enabled us to maintain a purpose-driven, world-class workspace exposing our associates to global experiences and opportunities.”

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CICT pledges US$ 25,000 for sight-saving surgeries in Sri Lanka

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Another group of Sri Lankans with correctable eye diseases and disorders will soon begin surgery to restore clearer vision, thanks to the latest phase of a community initiative of Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) in partnership with the Nawaloka Hospital.CICT recently donated US$ 25,000 (Rs 9.25 million at current exchange rates) it has pledged for the project. The donation is part of CICT’s ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project’ that the Company launched in 2015.

Nawaloka Hospital will procure, supply and utilise all the resources needed to implement the project, including providing professional medical staff, lenses, accessories, and other equipment to perform surgeries, under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two organisations. The patients for these free surgeries will be selected from the waiting lists of several government hospitals in Sri Lanka, on the recommendations of the signatory organisations.

Commenting on CICT’s continuing support to this eye care programme, the Company’s General Manager – Administration and Corporate Social Responsibility Mr Grant Yang said: “The C-Blue Restore Sight Project was launched to enable access to eye care, especially for those living in impoverished conditions. The recent economic crisis in Sri Lanka has pushed many more beyond the poverty line, and often, non-emergency healthcare is one of the casualties on the list of priorities. With this latest phase of the project, CICT is reaffirming its commitment to the continuity of this initiative, despite the challenges faced by the business.”

Cataract surgeries, refractive surgeries that reshape the cornea (LASIK surgery), and Corneal Collagen Crosslinking (CXL) including squint correction and keratoplasty will be performed under this phase of the CICT ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project.’ Additionally, selected patients requiring the Avastin injection for visual defects too will be accommodated. Plans to conduct eye camps in certain needy areas identified by CICT are also in the pipeline.

At a ceremony held recently at the Hospital, Mr Grant Yang presented a symbolic cheque to the Chairman and CEO of Nawaloka Hospitals Dr Jayantha Dharmadasa and the Hospital’s Director/General Manager Vidya Jyothi Emeritus Professor Lal G. Chandrasena. Thereafter, the CICT team visited some of the patients scheduled for surgeries. Since the launch of the ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project’ in 2015, CICT has funded more than 450 cataract surgeries to restore sight, in collaboration with the National Eye Hospital.

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