Prices for holidays to Sri Lanka fell sharply after the Easter Sunday bombings earlier this year, with some Britons saving thousands of pounds on their holiday even three months later.
But it could soon become even cheaper thanks to a new initiative by the country’s tourism minister.
With so many tempting holiday deals on offer, and with the UK Foreign Office relaxing its travel advice for Sri Lanka, let’s find out if now is the perfect time to travel to Sri Lanka.
Flights to Sri Lanka are about to get even cheaper
In an effort to boost tourism in the country, the Sri Lankan government has announced that it will cut several fees affecting airlines.
Ground handling charges, jet fuel and boarding taxes will all be cut, meaning flights to the country will be cheaper.
Johanne Jayaratne, head of the government’s tourism development agency, said the reduction in fees would last for six months.
The country’s tourism minister, John Amaratunga, also said the cuts could mean an increase in the number of flights to the country in the future.
Some 2.3 million tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2018, when 29 airlines offered 300 weekly flights. After the April 21 attack, 41 games were canceled each week and passenger seats were reduced by 8,000.
Several airlines have since returned to normal schedules, but others have not.
What happened to the Easter Sunday bombings?
Three five-star hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka were bombed in coordinated bomb attacks on Easter Sunday.
A total of 253 people were killed and more than 500 were injured in the attack, including the British.
As a result, the Foreign Office issued advice warning Britons not to travel to the country for fear of more bombings, though it has since eased its advice.
The Sri Lankan government has named state Thowheed Jamath as behind the bomb attack.
chance for some bargains
After the bombings, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka more than halved.
In June, the number of tourists dropped by 57% compared to the same period last year.
As a result, many hotels and travel companies are desperately offering steep discounts to lure tourists back — and when it comes to luxury vacations, the savings are often even greater.
Specialist travel agency Experience Travel Group told Sun Online Travel they saved a family of five £3,000 on their August holiday.
Previously, the same holiday would have cost £11,500.
Even now, they offer holidays hundreds of pounds cheaper in August and September.
For example, a seven-night holiday in August at the bed and breakfast in the five-star seaside resort of Aditya now starts from £1,920 per person.
It includes flights and transfers, saving £695 per person.
Their 14-night bespoke package, including flights, private driver-guide, three or four-star hotel, country tour and beach accommodation, costs £1,995 per person.
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Save £712 per person with the September or October offer.
Meanwhile, surf and yoga resort Soul & Surf is offering 25 percent off all stays until September 30 this year.
This means an all-inclusive rate of £690 per person for seven nights and £920 per person including all activities.
But not all travel agencies have returned.
For example, Virgin Holidays has made a conscious decision not to sell holidays to Sri Lanka for the time being, although the company is continuing to monitor the situation in the country.
What is the current FCO recommendation?
Days after the Easter Sunday bombings, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned Britons against visiting Sri Lanka amid fears of possible new bombings.
In June, it updated its recommendations.
Now it says: “The FCO is no longer advising against travel to Sri Lanka other than for essential travel.”
However, tourists still need to be vigilant.
The Foreign Office said: “It is very likely that terrorists attempted to carry out an attack in Sri Lanka. The attack may have been indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
Sri Lanka remains in a “state of emergency” with a high security level.
This means that curfews may be imposed for short periods of time in some areas.
There is also the potential for mob violence to occur with little or no warning.
What do the experts say?
Derek Moore, president of the Association of Independent Travel Operators (AITO), told Travel Sun Online: “AITO and its dedicated members for Sri Lanka are confident that with the recent changes to the UK Foreign Office’s travel advice for the country, Now is the time for vacationers to return.
“In addition to the newly announced airfare promotions, there are a number of special offers from hoteliers and British tourists will be in for a very warm welcome.
“Many Sri Lankan families depend on tourism for their livelihoods – from self-employed drivers/guides to fishermen, from hotel, spa and restaurant workers to wildlife and adventure guides – and traveling to the island is a good way to feed thousands of people. Approach. People and their wider families.
“It’s great to be able to give back to those working in the tourism industry in such a very practical way while enjoying a great holiday.
“Sri Lanka has a vibrant culture and many cultural attractions to explore, wildlife safaris, water sports, trekking and beautiful beaches, as well as an exciting fusion of different cuisines. Its spas are amazing too.
“There is so much to see and do here and I wholeheartedly recommend you visit this delightful and welcoming country.”
A similar view was expressed by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).
An ABTA spokesperson told The Sun Online Travel: “Sri Lanka is an incredibly beautiful destination with a warm and welcoming people and a strong historical link with the UK.
“It’s especially popular with honeymooners, many of whom combine it with their stay in the Maldives.
“This initiative by the Sri Lankan government should help stimulate demand for the country. As with any destination, ABTA advises customers to read foreign and Commonwealth travel advisories to help them make an informed decision when choosing a holiday destination, and Check for any updates before they go.”