Russian winter tourism bonanza to muster USD 26 mn to SL | Daily News


Russian winter tourism bonanza to muster USD 26 mn to SL

Country to open up leisure industry after 6 months
Udayanga Weeratunga   Picture by Ranjith Asanka
Udayanga Weeratunga Picture by Ranjith Asanka

Sri Lanka is planning to open its doors for the Russian and former Soviet breakaway State tourists from next month under strict health guidelines, former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga said. This is targeting the Russian winter season traffic.

This is the first time after nearly six months that Sri Lanka is planning to accommodate tourists. He said that a mega promotion in this regard was done in Russia and its surrounding countries and the outcome was very positive.

“Tour Operators are eagerly waiting for final approval from the government of Sri Lanka and health authorities to fly in tourists from the Russian Union.”

Speaking to ‘Daily News Business he said, “ the Russian Union will send 144 flights operated by 6 airlines on a weekly basis to Sri Lanka from October 2020 to April bringing in an average of around 44,000 former Soviet Bloc tourists. They will spend around USD 26 million in Sri Lanka giving the much needed revenue to the industry.”

“We expect them to occupy around 10, 000 rooms during this period.”

He said that former Soviet Union Bloc tourists have identified Dominican Republic, Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam and the Maldives as ‘preferred’ destinations for the upcoming winter and my proposal to include Sri Lanka into this list was well accepted by the tour operators.

Despite the covid pandemic, the Russian people’s purchasing power has not dipped (among the 30 plus group) and they would be the traveller category to Sri Lanka.

He explained that due to logistical reasons Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) has been selected as the airport for this tour package. Asked why Jaffna Airport was not included to this he said that it was because there is no destination marketing done for Jaffna and the Northern city is unknown in Russia.

Tourists visiting Sri Lanka under this program will have to pay a visa fee of USD 100 and take compulsory PCR test, 3 days prior to departure. The second PCR test would be taken in their pre planned designated hotel in Sri Lanka and would not be allowed to move out of the hotel unless they stay for 15 days.

“To provide them leisure activities we plan to offer them an exclusive beach area in front of the hotel which would be restricted to Sri Lankans.

These are being coordinated and executed under health authority guidelines. A proposal to the Cabinet has been forwarded in this regard.

Weeratunge said that this initiative has given a new lease of life for local hotels and they should contact Russian tour operators to offer accommodation to Russian tourists.

(Full interview with Udayanga Weeratunga on page 9)