|Tuesday, 11 January 2005|
Call to draft tsunami travel advisories prudently
The Asian region being hit with a natural disaster on Boxing Day will be also hit by another tragedy if correct action is not taken promptly, making it a double tragedy, said veteran hotelier Lalin de Mel.
He said most countries (developed) have issued travel warnings and also cancelled charters that bring in tourists. The tsunami affected countries are getting relief aid beyond what one would have expected. Now the thoughts of the local communities are turning to their future.
They can't live on relief aid all the time. Many people live directly or indirectly in the coastal areas in Sri Lanka by the tourism dollar so the best way one could help, is to continue bringing the tourists and not cancelling the bookings that are already made.
The WTO also called upon National Governments to draft travel advisories in a careful and responsible manner taking into account that the disaster only affected pockets of a wide area and to withdraw warnings in a timely manner, for example Negombo to Kalutara did not have a major impact and all hotels were up and running in two days, but travel warnings were put in place not to travel to Sri Lanka.
What about the hotels in Kandy, Sigiriya, Habarana and Nuwara Eliya, were these hotels or for that matter any tourism product affected? There are so many hotels, beaches, cultural sites and places of interest that are untouched by the recent disaster, aren't these compelling reasons to visit Sri Lanka.
De Mel said there is also a group of people trying to take advantage of the situation by asking for special offers and discounted rates.
This is the time Sri Lanka or for that matter any affected country needs more money to get back to normalcy. This is only a natural disaster and not a war or the country is not in political turmoil. This type of disaster can happen anywhere in the world.
The Hotels are back in operation and offering the same facilities and services offered before the disaster struck, so could one give reasons why hotels should discount. Above all this, if hotels start discounting one would be sending the wrong message to the world.
As responsible citizens we need to focus on rebuilding the livelihoods of the millions of people affected. Beyond raising funds for the immediate victims let's spend our money and send the tourist back to prevent further victims that may happen as a result of travel warnings, he said. - SS
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