Tour operators in Germany are cancelling holidays in Sri Lanka after Berlin officially warned against travelling to the Indian Ocean island following the recent devastating terror attacks and amid fears of follow-up attacks.
The German foreign ministry toughened its travel advice for Sri Lanka at the weekend and advised against all unnecessary travel to the country. Other countries, including the USA, the UK and India, have also issued similar advice.
TUI already pre-empted this step last Friday and cancelled all trips to the island until May 31. Thomas Cook is offering free cancellations or re-booking to other destinations for holidays with departures up to May 31, while DER Touristik has advised its customers to take up a similar offer. In parallel, local incoming agencies working for German tour operators are advising holidaymakers already on the island to travel home earlier than scheduled.
German tour operators had already responded to the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in churches and hotels by changing their programmes, cancelling excursions and offering free cancellations for customers with impending departures to the island.
However, there were relatively few German holidaymakers on Sri Lanka at the time of attacks as it is currently a low season for tourism. DER Touristik, the German market leader for trips to Sri Lanka, had “nearly a four-digit number” of customers on the island, TUI had some 150 customers there and Thomas Cook had a “low three-digit” number of guests. Other tour operators had fewer guests on Sri Lanka.
The terrorism attack has already hit Sri Lanka’s tourism industry hard. In the first three days after the attacks of April 21, 86% of all flight bookings to the island were cancelled, according to market researcher Forward Keys, and there have been very few new bookings since then.
The island’s strong tourism comeback achieved over the last five years is now at risk, according to experts. Sri Lanka saw an 84% rise in German visitor numbers to 157,000 from 2013 to 2018, including a 20% increase last year, according to the fvw Destination Ranking 2019. Overall, the island enjoyed an 83% surge to more than 2.3 million international tourists as holidaymakers regained confidence in the destination after the civil war a decade ago.