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75% Decline in Yala safari-goers including locals 

9 months ago

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  • Majority of safari jeep drivers quit industry, seek to join migrant worker force 
  • 200 jeeps in Yala alone sold or returned to leasing companies 
  • Safari ride cost increased by Rs. 2,000
BY Dinitha Rathnayake  A 75% decrease in tourists going on safaris in the Yala National Park has been reported, following countless months of a prolonged halt to tourism and due to the current situation in the country. Speaking to The Morning, safari driver A.M.P. Sudesh Sameera said that due to the collapse of the local and global tourism industry, many drivers have either temporarily stopped working as safari jeep drivers or have completely resigned, as most of them are planning to seek work abroad. “So far, 200 jeeps have reportedly been sold just within the Yala premises. Some have handed over these jeeps to the relevant leasing companies, as they are unable to pay their dues, while others have permanently left the industry for more stable sources of income.” According to Sameera, the cost of a Yala safari ride has increased from Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 8,000, while the jungle ride to the Kebiliththa devalaya (place of worship), known as the Siyambalawa devalaya, has increased from Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 50,000. “We cannot afford the prices of fuel and spare parts, as they are almost double. The current price of super diesel costs around Rs. 380 per litre, and normal diesel costs around Rs. 280 per litre,” he said.  He also claimed that super diesel is the only choice for them at the moment, as normal diesel is not distributed to the Kataragama area. The notable drop in locals at the Yala premises after the Covid-19 crisis affects the safari industry directly and this observed phenomenon is a short-term and potentially long-term threat to the local leisure industry.

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