Ranatunga working towards securing electricity bill concessions
By Dinitha RathnayakeThe Government is considering further extension of the concession on electricity bills granted to tourism operators affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga yesterday (17) stated he hopes to discuss the matter with Minister of Power Gamini Lokuge.Due to the pandemic, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) had provided a grace period for registered tourist hotels and residences to pay their electricity bills, which ended in September 2020. In January 2021, Cabinet approved the provision of a six-month grace period for tourism operators to settle their outstanding electricity and water bill payments, while the sector was already receiving relief in the form of debt moratoriums on capital and interest.Minister Ranatunga noted that hoteliers have been asking for further relief to be provided, as it may take several more months for the collapsed tourism industry to recover, and added that the Government is considering granting this concession for an additional period.The tourism industry, which collapsed due to the pandemic, appears to be gradually recovering, with 45,413 tourists having visited the country since January, and 7,096 arrivals recorded in October alone. Most of the arrivals from January to October were from India, Kazakhstan, Germany, Ukraine, the US, China, Canada, France, and Russia.Minister Ranatunga stated that with the easing of travel restrictions, more and more tourists are coming to Sri Lanka. He also said that the necessary promotion programmes are being implemented to attract more tourists to the country in the next two months.Meanwhile, tourist hotels, as well as accommodation and service providers who have not yet registered with the SLTDA are now reportedly showing increased interest in undergoing registration. At present, 5,786 tourist hotels are registered with the SLTDA, which is also implementing a concessionary programme for registration.This registration is conducted online, and the SLTDA noted that a programme to expedite these registrations is being conducted on Ranatunga’s instructions.