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Reopening tourism industry: Small tour groups expected in August

Sri Lanka is to reopen international tourism by initially allowing small tour groups to travel the country by August, The Morning learnt.

Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation Siripala Hettiarachchi told The Morning that it had been decided to allow only small tour groups to enter the country for tourism at the beginning.

“Small tour groups will be easier to handle and keep track of. It will also be easier to plan tours and such for a group rather than have individual tourists going all over the country,” he said, noting the importance of following Covid-19 guidelines.

He said they hope to reopen the airports and thereby the country for tourism by 1 August. Hettiarachchi went on to say that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has requested that tourists be flown directly to Mattala (the Rajapaksa Hambantota Airport) and to promote non-traditional destinations as a measure to avoid high-risk areas.

“The President has requested that we look at new locations such as Arugam Bay and Trincomalee rather than the traditional tourism hotspots. The plan is to bring them down straight to the Mattala Airport and then go along the coast or through the southern districts to the east coast. This way, we can touch Yala and Udawalawe Parks as well,” he said, pointing out that this enables tourists to enjoy the country while also keeping clear of densely populated
areas and high-risk zones.

By Skandha Gunasekara