Tourism in Sri Lanka realized that there would be no more Russian tourists

Sri Lankan tourism realized there will be no more Russian tourists

Famed Sri Lanka's tourism sector will see a critical decline in tourists and revenues as the Russian national carrier ” Aeroflot suspended international flights amid Western sanctions due to the launch of a Russian special operation in Ukraine to protect the residents of Donbass and Lugansk and is now looking forward to the start of next season with a shudder. The loss of a key market and dire consequences for the tropical island was reported by Economynext.

On Saturday, March 5, Aeroflot announced that it was winding down its flight program abroad from March 8. Flight losses are huge: until February 24, the airline flew to 146 destinations, including Sri Lanka. Western countries, including the US, EU and Canada, have imposed heavy sanctions, including closing their airspace to Russia.

“Russia has been a key market for Sri Lanka. This is bad news for us,” Nalin Jayasundera, vice president of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), reacted to the closure of air traffic. “But the disadvantage can be compensated if SriLankan Airlines continues to fly to Moscow.”

Russia and Ukraine have been Sri Lanka's key markets for tourists since it reopened the country to tourism in December 2020 after a long coronavirus lockdown. The island nation, popular for its beaches and diverse nature, appreciated that a fifth of the total number of tourists – 268.340, who arrived at the resorts from December to February, were from Russia and Ukraine.

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Winter is the peak season for tourism in Sri Lanka, it lasts from December to March. Traditionally, tourists from Russia, as well as Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, prefer to leave for wintering from their cold regions to warm countries. One of the favorite destinations of our compatriots is Sri Lanka. Tourists stay here until about mid-May.

“The Russians stay with us until about May 10, but now, given what happened and the termination of flights by Aeroflot, we only see cancellation after cancellation of bookings,” – complained an expert in the field of tourism.

“It is too early to talk about 100% cancellations, but we see a trend. Until April, we have Russians, and then the tourist flow will drop sharply. At the moment, we cannot determine the figure, but there will be significantly fewer Russians,” said the former head of the association, Mahen Kariyawasam.

However, veterans of the tourism industry are hoping for the best as the winter tourist season draws to a close and SriLankan Airlines and Emirates continue to offer flights to and from Moscow. According to the official representative of the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines has left the frequency of flights at the same level – three times a week.

Tourism has big problems

Russian tourists also face payment problems because some of their foreign assets were frozen, while Europeans and Americans were banned from dealing with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation or its wealth fund under the threat of being cut off from SWIFT – the system is connected to more than 11,000 banks and works in more than 200 countries.

Visa, American Express and Mastercard have already suspended their activities in Russia. Although, according to the banks, the cards can be used until they expire in Russia, but they will not be valid abroad or for international payments in online stores.

“Now the problem lies in the uncertainty that will have an impact on the arrival of tourists, since Master Card and Visa have been canceled in Russia. This will have a huge impact on travelers and winterers. Moreover, the ruble has now depreciated by more than 30%. This means that Russians have problems with increased spending, and there will be fewer trips because income is declining. Russian tourists will be more careful, and this will affect tourism and tourist flow,” said Charit De Alvis, CEO of Tangerine Tours.

Since the start of the special operation, Sri Lanka has already experienced a drop in the number of tourist bookings from Russia, as well as Egypt, as well as Turkey, All this is likely to lead to a decrease in income in the leisure industry, hoteliers and travel agents.

“U we have very few new armors, we are actually waiting to see that tomorrow will be better than today. But the situation is not changing in our favor. At the moment we don't have high hopes. We're in the off season. We are waiting for the situation to cool down, and we hope that this will not last longer than 4-5 months,” said a representative of the travel agency Ceylon My Dream.

In general, the terrible situation with the fall in tourist traffic coincided with the end of the peak season in Sri Lanka. However, experts are horrified to see the beginning of the next one. “We still have customers, but their number has dropped by about 80%, we are getting new bookings, but not as many as before. Currently, we do not have Ukrainian tourists, but the rest are still coming to us, but in smaller numbers than before,” he concluded.

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