Why Sri Lanka holidays are safer than ever
After the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office finally lifted travel warnings and advice against travel to Sri Lanka, a Breaking Travel News editor looks at just how safe Sri Lanka holidays are after the civil war on the north of the island ended.
Now that finally the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has removed travel warnings advising against Sri Lanka holidays and effectively encouraging tourists to return to this beautiful holiday destinationo in the Indian Ocean, we look at why travel to the island is safer than ever and an option not to be disregarded even when the country is still in the process of clearing minefields.
However, while this is doubtless a boom for tourism operators in the country, warnings persist over travel to the north of the island, once dominated by the Tamil Tiger resistance army. So just how safe are Sri Lanka holidays? Breaking Travel News junior editor Chris O’Toole takes a look.
He starts by warning that minefields are still being cleared, while unexploded ordnance and weapon caches remain a problem and the security forces are also involved in the resettlement of internally displaced persons. At the moment travellers must also seek permission from the Sri Lankan ministry of defence before travelling to the northern districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya.
And while all this seems to be a world away from the idyllic beach destination presented in glossy brochures that invite holidaymakers to take care-free Sri Lanka holidays, the move from the FCO should help to boost confidence in taking holidays to Sri Lanka, according to Sri Lanka Tourism UK marketing manager Nabeel Shariff.
“We have gone from the height of the conflict to become conflict free in just over a year; few other destinations can claim such a turnaround.
“This will boost the confidence of tour operators, who perhaps have not consistently marketed the destination,” added Mr Shariff.
“This effectively makes us a new destination.”
This official view is supported by tour operators in United Kingdom, with Kate Glover of Sri Lanka specialist FleeWinter arguing the country has been safe for “some time”.
“Most of the tourist areas have been safe for travel for some time now and the geography of the conflict was hugely significant, but not very well explained; i.e. you wouldn’t not holiday in Cornwall because of the London tube bombings for example,” she added.
So why this lingering fear over travel to the region? A number of sources have identified graphic media reports from Sri Lanka; colouring the whole country with images from the war torn north. And while many Sri Lankans have never visited the areas hit by the civil war and remain untouched by its consequences, potential visitors lack the information to make informed decisions when looking at the prospect of taking Sri Lanka holidays. This is an established trend; with both Jamaica and Thailand seeing bookings hit this year as media reports illustrated violent unrest.
However, in both cases the panic was unjustified, with holidaymakers on the ground, as in Sri Lanka, reporting few problems when visiting.
It appears, then, that Sri Lanka is safe to travel after all. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office may even be criticised for delaying its announcement, costing the country valuable tourist trade as it struggles to rebuild in the aftermath of the civil war.
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