Chinese travelers in two minds for tours in Sri Lanka
Even in the aftermath of Covid -19 infections in China, Sri Lanka is yet to prepare for possible arrival of tourists from Beijing, which relaxed Covid-19 travel measures last month, officials said.
China opened its borders for outbound travel last month almost after three-years of its zero-Covid policy and the infections in the 1.4 billion nation have hit staggering levels filling up crematoriums, foreign media reports have suggested.
Many Asian countries have imposed mandatory tests for Chinese tourists while tourist operators in others are preparing packages such as hotspot buffets to cash in on the expected spike in travel.
“From our side the plans are going on, but nothing has been implemented yet,” Priyantha Fernando, the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said.
The Consul General of Sri Lanka in Shanghai Anura Fernando claims that although Sri Lanka is included in the pilot program of China partially lifting the ban on international group travel, Chinese tourists haven’t shown much interest in Sri Lanka, since most of them haven’t traveled out of the country in three years.
“So far, not much. We are expecting them to return soon. Their particular interest has been to other countries, which are closer to China, since most Chinese haven’t traveled for three years out of the country.”
“So, they are taking a look at closer destinations. But I think Sri Lanka should be attractive to most Chinese travelers, because of Buddhism. Many Buddhist sites are located there. And there’s the tea that is grown there, as well as jewellery and beaches”, he said.
Joining an interview on the CGTN television network in China, the Sri Lankan Consul General in Shanghai also highlighted that the Chinese are very familiar with the country, since the country has attracted large investments in Sri Lanka.
“We are expecting them to return soon”, he said. Furthermore, Mr. Fernando expressed that the tourist numbers in Sri Lanka will increase to around one million this year.
Commenting on the bilateral trade ties between China and Sri Lanka, Mr. Fernando stated that Sri Lanka hopes to sign the free trade agreement with China this year, which will open up more trade between the two countries.
In response to a question raised regarding the current progress of Colombo Port City, a development with large investments from China, Mr. Fernando pointed out that its operations will commence in one to two years, since the construction of the buildings has already been re-commenced.
He also highlighted that an international financial centre is being launched in Colombo Port City.
“Due to the pandemic, it slowed down. Most people working there returned home and they are coming back to the port city. We are launching an international financial centre. Now the construction of buildings has started, within the next year or two, it will start to operate.”
“There is a port called the Hambantota Port, which was built by the China Merchant state-owned Chinese company. It’s complete and in operation. And there are some land sites available in what we call the free trade zone and a few Chinese industries are operating there.”