Sri Lanka

German tour operators offer free cancellations

Galle fort is a popular tourist attraction on Sri Lanka.
Galle fort is a popular tourist attraction on Sri Lanka.

German package holidaymakers have been offered free cancellations of trips to Sri Lanka following the devastating terror attacks that killed more than 300 people on Easter Sunday.

The bomb attacks on various churches and three luxury hotels that killed 321 people and injured 500 more were apparently carried out by Islamist extremists, allegedly with links to Isis. At least 35 foreign tourists from eight countries are believed to died, including one person with joint American and German nationality.

The island’s government has responded with a security crackdown in public places, including in hotels and at airports, amid claims that security forces failed to respond to warnings of possible attacks.

The German foreign ministry “urgently” advised travellers to avoid the sites of the attacks, monitor local media, “keep in close contact with tour operators and airlines”, and follow the instructions of security forces.

Tour operators in Germany have responded by changing their programmes on Sri Lanka and offering free cancellations for customers with impending departures to the island. Their crisis teams are in permanent contact with the foreign ministry.

DER Touristik, the German market leader for trips to Sri Lanka, has “nearly a four-digit number” of customers on the island at present, including beach holidaymakers and customers on tours, who are all unharmed. Only a few customers have requested to return home early and have been booked on available flights. The group has cancelled all excursions to Colombo and is offering free cancellation or re-bookings for planned departures up to May 6.

FTI, which also has beach and tour holidaymakers on the island, is similarly offering cancellations of trips with departures up to April 28 and is responding “flexibly” to the small number of customers who want to fly back to Germany.

TUI has contacted its 150 customers on Sri Lanka by SMS or through its local tour guide organisation, and nearly all guests wanted to continue with their holidays. All excursions have been cancelled and free cancellations are available for departures until April 29.

Thomas Cook, with a “low three-digit” number of customers on the island, is offering free cancellations of departures until May 2 and has cancelled excursions to Colombo.

The 100 customers of Schauinsland-Reisen on the island have all decided to continue their holidays. The tour operator is offering free cancellations of departures up to May 5. Alltours customers with flights up to April 30 can cancel or switch to other destinations free of charge.

Among the cultural holidays specialists, Studiosus has customers on other parts of the island at present. The tour operator is offering free cancellations of departures in April and May but expects to conduct tours scheduled for the summer months.

Similarly, Gebeco is offering free cancellations up to May 23. The TUI subsidiary has various groups in different parts of the island at present and will be able to continue with the current trips. Managing director Ury Steinweg said: “We will accept new bookings but expect many customers will hold back with bookings. Despite the state of emergency, we expect we can carry out future tours as planned.”

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