On 21 April 2019 the headlines from across the world went rampant with the news of several bombings taking place in Sri Lanka.
The suicide bombing attacks at multiple venues including hotels, churches and resorts claimed the lives of more than 250 people. The country’s welcoming environment was environment was thrown into chaos. The tourism sector of Sri Lanka suddenly became cloudy and then the inevitable started to happen.
For the fear of the safety and security, travellers and holidaymakers were cancelling their bookings to various venues and destinations of Sri Lanka. Obvious as it is, this had resulted in a significant loss of business growth in the tourism sector of the country.
Attacks of this scale shake the economic foreground and it takes months for a full-fledged recovery to kick-in. Until then what the government can do is attempt to ascertain that a similar incident of the same scale not to occur while also providing assurance the return of safety.
But the question remains, will there be any imposition or effect on the tourism sector of Maldives due to the attack in Lanka?
Geographically speaking, Sri Lanka lies closest to the island nation and is by all means the closest neighbour of the country. Bilateral ties and the existence of joint ventures between the two nations in hospitality and tourism sector also means that the two countries share growth in the sector on a parallel level.
Though not fully ruled out as symbiotic, one may argue that the tourism of Sri Lanka is linked to the tourism of Maldives.
One of the main reasons for the link between tourism of the two countries to exist is the presence of renowned Lankan properties in Maldives. It has been already reported that several of the Sri Lankan properties operating in Maldives have been affected by the attack.
Sri Lanka’s tourism board, five days post the deadly attack, revealed that the incident had left a deep financial scar on the country. In figures, it was estimated that the country’s tourism sector faced a loss of USD1.5 billion.
The pre-attack Sri Lanka had expected at least a minimum of 2.5 million travellers will be visiting the country throughout the year. But in light of the horrible attack, the possibility of this target being achieved has been spread thin.
It has been reported that nearly 50% of all the bookings to Sri Lanka was cancelled immediately after the attack while a 10% cancellation was observed from airlines routed to the country.
Tourism industry experts and analysts coincide almost unanimously that it would take nearly a year or two for the air of fear from the country to fully subside.
The attack on Sri Lankan soil would create a paradigm shift in the travellers visiting to Maldives from India. It is noteworthy that while the Indian market is on the rise to Maldives, it has always been European countries at the top of the contributor market constantly.
Though Indian market is a rising one for Maldivian tourism, Lanka has always attracted more travellers from India throughout every year – mainly due to the shared cultural and religious practices and norms. However, with the visible upsurge of Indian travellers to Maldives that has coincided with the terrorist attack at Lanka may add to reasons for more Indian travellers choosing the island nation as their primary holiday destination over Sri Lanka.
Just last month, in March the island nation’s tourism ministry reported a growth of 85.5% in Indian market to Maldives tourism.
However, this may not really seem to be all profitable or preferable for Maldives entirely since Sri Lanka and Maldives do share tourism aspects between the two. The rise in guesthouse numbers had resulted in the increase in ‘local tourism’ and several travel agencies operating in Maldivian tourism industry originate or are in joint ventures with Sri Lanka.
This explains the ‘combined packages’ Sri Lanka has been selling to travellers, which involves holidaymakers spending portions of their vacation at both Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Tourism promoters and travel agency owners in Maldives tourism field chime in that the attack on Lankan soil will impose several challenges for Maldivian tourism as well and will require a significant time to recover from it.
Following the Sri Lanka’s bombing attack, some 600 or more bookings tied to the country’s properties operating in Maldives faced cancellation. These are unavoidable and irrecoverable losses economically and financially.
On top of this Maldives currently faces another challenge – in light of the recent attack on Sri Lanka, mainstream media had entertained the notion of radicalization present in Maldives. Several foreign media had headlined Maldivian locals fleeing the country to join radical or extremist groups and take up arms.
This has left a sour taste in the country’s economical foreground and will require lot of effort and convincing the world at large of the safety and security guaranteed to foreigners visiting or residing in the island nation.
Though the fact remains that there will be a considerable loss for Maldivian tourism due to this attack on Sri Lanka, it is also arguable that the island nation’s tourism may be able to take some level of advantage in drawing travellers to the country.
Some of the industry experts have presented the idea of detaching the combined packages between Sri Lanka and Maldives and make the package exclusive to Maldivian tourist venues if the island nation wishes to see any positive outcome from the situation.
Due to the attached or linked nature between the tourism of both these countries, it can be agreed that the decline in Lankan tourism will play out somewhat similar in Maldivian tourism as well. Right now one of the key decisions the country’s executive can take is to ensure the global tourism market of the safety and security Maldivian tourism can provide to the holidaymakers visiting the country.