Sri Lankan government elections not keeping business travellers away

When Sri Lanka holds her largest ever government election on February 10, tourist arrivals – unlike in the recent past – will not be affected.

Major tourism stakeholders told TTGmice that they are confident that business would be as usual next month.

Shiromal Cooray, managing director at Jetwing Travels, asserted that there would be “no issues”.

According to Harith Perera, managing director of Diethelm Travel Sri Lanka, there is normally a level of cautious travel during elections. “This was evident during the last presidential election in January 2015 when there was tension and violence,” he said.

However, the situation is very calm this time and the election hasn’t attracted any global attention, he pointed out.

During the January 8, 2015 presidential election campaign, violence was rampant. There were also fears of post-election violence when incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa was challenged by health minister Maithripala Sirisena who defected to the opposition and eventually won the poll.

While January typically shows double-digit growth, in 2015 arrivals slowed to an increase of 6.6 per cent from January 2014, compared to a 24.3 per cent increase in January 2016 and 32.6 per cent in January 2014.

Also positive is Achini Dandunnage, senior manager, Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau, who expects business events traffic into her destination to continue as usual in February.

Anantara Kalutara Resort (ballroom pictured here) in southern Sri Lanka has several corporate groups arriving in election month

Offering proof of normalcy, Giles Selves, area general manager for Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, Anantara Kalutara Resort and AVANI Kalutara Resort, said he signed three corporate group contracts in the week of January 8 and Anantara Kalutara Resort will welcome several corporate events in February.

“We are not seeing any negative impact. Everything we are hearing (from the ground) is that there won’t be any issues during this election, so why wouldn’t travels into Sri Lanka continue? We are also still getting enquiries for March, April and onwards,” said Selves. Additional reporting by Karen Yue


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