Over 2,500 tourists coming from Russia: Prasanna buoyant despite Ukraine flak

By Dinitha Rathnayake


The Government is planning to facilitate the arrival of 2,580 tourists from Russia, Ukraine, and other regional countries by 19 January based on the success of the tourism reopening pilot project so far, according to Minister of Tourism Prasanna Ranatunga.

“We kicked-off this pilot programme last week and we have already had a good response from tourists as well as the people who work in the tourism industry, as most of the drivers and tourist guides have also given their support towards it.”

However, the Government has come under heavy fire from the Opposition for the manner in which it has conducted the pilot project, with allegations about violations of health protocols. The selection of Ukraine for the pilot project has also been criticised, as the Eastern European country with a population of 42 million people passed the one million mark for Covid-19-positive cases shortly before Christmas.

The Ukrainean Prime Minister plans to impose tight nationwide lockdowns this month to stop the rapid spread of the virus. Furthermore, while Sri Lanka has banned travel from the UK following the detection of a new and potentially more dangerous variant of Covid-19 being detected in the country, Ukraine is yet to ban travel from the UK.

Russia confirmed 3,236,787 cases of Covid-19 and 58,506 deaths as at yesterday. Moscow, Russia’s capital and its worst-hit region, reported a total caseload of 824,979.

The locations and activities to be offered to the expected influx of Russian tourists have already been identified by the Ministry.

“We have identified 12 locations where tourists can visit, which are Sri Dalada Maligawa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Minneriya National Park, Yala National Park, Horton Plains National Park, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Udawalawe National Park, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Royal Botanical Gardens, and Peradeniya, and they can indulge in whale-watching and shopping at Salu Sala,” Ranatunga told The Morning yesterday (3).

Ranatunga added that related ministries have been given the responsibility of co-ordinating the logistics and health arrangements, such as the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation for the national parks.

“The relevant ministries have been given the responsibility of the places where foreigners are expected to visit since more flights carrying tourists are expected to arrive in the coming days under the programme. The tourists will be subjected to PCR tests before and after entering the country and would be part of a bio-bubble, isolated from the outside world.”

He added that even private tour operators could benefit from this project.

“People who are interested in bringing tourists to the country can make a request to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) where they also can be a part of this programme,” Ranatunga added.

Meanwhile, State Minister of Aviation and Development of Export Zones D.V. Chanaka said yesterday that the airport is expected to open to domestic and foreign passengers by the end of January in line with the health recommendations.