April 29, 2019 / 9:29 AM / 7 months ago

Tourist arrivals in Colombo to drop by 50 percent after bombings: Sri Lanka tourism chief

DUBAI (Reuters) - Tourist arrivals in Colombo will fall by 50 percent over the next two months following the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 250 people, Sri Lanka’s Tourism Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes predicted on Monday.

Tourist arrivals in areas outside Colombo are likely to fall by about 30 percent as a result of the attacks, Gomes told reporters at a travel conference in Dubai.

Sri Lanka was facing lost tourism revenues of about $750 million this year, he told Reuters.

SriLankan Airlines’ chief executive Vipula Gunatilleka told Reuters that the carrier had a 10 percent increase in cancellations last week and expects that number to rise.

A collapse in tourism following the attacks on churches and hotels would deal a severe blow to the island’s economy and financial markets, and potentially force it to seek further assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

Tourism was Sri Lanka’s third largest and fastest growing source of foreign currency last year, after private remittances and textile and garment exports, accounting for almost $4.4 billion or 4.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2018.

Gomes said the tourism bureau had targeted 2.5 million visitors in 2019.

“We will probably reach about 2 million,” Gomes told reporters. “We are looking at providing some concessions to the industry for them to be able to maintain their viability for the next few months.”

Gomes said confidence could return if the military is able to give assurances on security.

“If the military can come out over the next few days and make a strong statement with respect to security that’s when we will obviously offer a bit of confidence and try and work against that anticipation,” the tourism chief said.

Editing by Toby Chopra and Catherine Evans

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