Lonely Planet Named Sri Lanka the #1 Travel Destination for 2019
UPDATE: August 2019 – Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved to grant a free on-arrival visa for tourists from the following countries (Listed here in alphabetical order): Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America.
UPDATE: July 2019 – The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), USA Department of State and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have changed their advice against travel to Sri Lanka. In doing so, the UK and Australia now join Switzerland, China, Austria, Sweden, Germany, India, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada and Italy in relaxing their tourism travel advisory from “Only essential travel” to pre-Easter Sunday levels of “be vigilant about personal safety”. The USA has reduced its travel advice from level 4 – Do not travel to Level 2 “Exercise increased caution”. These changes now also reduce concerns about travel insurance coverage too. Please check your individual travel insurer for details of coverage.
What happened at Easter?
On Easter Sunday, our beautiful island of Sri Lanka had a horrendous terrorist attack on some prominent churches and large hotels. The attack was a pre-planned and organised act of terrorism co-ordinated to occur at a set time – much like acts of terrorism that have taken place in highly populous cities like London, Paris and New York.
Just as happened in these Western countries, the attacks resulted in the nation needing to increase its level of security in order to curtail any other similar attacks.
Is Sri Lanka back to operating ‘Business as usual’?
Given the number of lives that were affected by that one day of attack, the nation has balanced respectful mourning and increased permanent security with carrying on with business as usual.
Increased security means that people visiting places where large crowds congregate, should be prepared to follow a more rigid security process but this also means that people can be free of fear to enjoy themselves.
While this increased security is a sad situation, it is not one that is isolated to Sri Lanka. As the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website advises “Terrorism is a threat throughout the world”.
The attacks on Easter Sunday was the reminder no one wanted, that evil exists everywhere. While the world adjusts to realising that, globally, safety can not be taken for granted, Sri Lanka joins an increasing line of countries that will not be relaxed about its security.
Business as usual now means carrying out usual routines and activities in a more security focused environment.
Was Taru Villas affected by the attacks?
As the attacks resulted in human lives being taken without reason or cause, the whole nation has been affected by the Easter Sunday Attacks. Emotionally, all proud Sri Lankans are devastated but physically no Taru Villas guest, staff member or property was harmed.
Taru Villas attracts a very discerning and smaller, exclusive segment of travellers than the larger, more ‘recognised’ or well known Branded hotel chains, giving the term “small mercies” new context. All Taru Villas hotels and Villas, even our Colombo property, are located in residential or quiet neighbourhoods, far from busy commercial hubs”
Is now a good time to travel to Sri Lanka?
This time of year is what the travel industry classifies as “Off-Peak” Season. Which means you can often find great deals in pricing of accommodation, accommodation is less busy, so securing a room is easier than trying to do so at times of year that the Sri Lankan diaspora tend to return home to visit family.
Right now, security is also higher than it has ever been which can be an added peace of mind for tourists who are visiting a country for the first time. Also depending on how well your local economy is doing, a trip to Sri Lanka can be of great value currency-wise.
If I travel to Sri Lanka now, would that help the country as it recovers from the attacks?Yes. There are over 2 million people who are actively employed in the tourism industry. Some of these people lost loved ones to the terrorists attack and what was taken from them can never be returned. Those lost must always be honoured. However… many of these survivors, and their colleagues in the tourism industry are still turning up to work to serve those who stand in unity with Sri Lanka and visit. Each tourist that visits this nation is important, partly for the trade they bring in tourism, but also as a new or returning friend to the nation. At times of healing we can all use a friend. Sri Lankans are hospitable by nature (Taru Villas takes great pride in this reputation) and those in the travel industry have made it their purpose in life to extend that hospitable nature to visitors to the country. It is not only what Sri Lankans do for a living, it is how they live.
Were these attacks part of Sri Lanka’s civil war?No. The Civil war that overshadowed the beauty of Sri Lanka ended approximately ten years ago unconnected with the Easter Sunday attacks of April 2019. The Easter Sunday attacks were not the product of in-fighting within the nation, they were an act of terrorism that have, like many other similar attacks in the world, been claimed by an International Terrorist Organisation, albeit with a linked local network that has subsequently been completely dismantled by the highly effective Sri Lankan Military and Security forces. With the ending of the civil war a decade ago, a state of peace is the new normal in Sri Lanka and with that a real yearning for and value for peace by most of her people, regardless of ethnicity or religion. This unity of purpose of the people was aptly demonstrated directly after the attacks when people of all religions and races stood in solidarity in a shared love of country and a desire to see her prevail. One example of this: within hours of the attack hospitals, which had initially called for blood donations to help the injured, had to send messages telling people that there was an excess in donations and to please stop coming to donate. An act of terror designed to divide the people, instead united them in compassion and cooperation.
Why are some government advisory sites advising that I be cautious about travel to Sri Lanka?
Government travel advisory sites are created to help us safely plan our travel to any country but even these sites acknowledge that safety can never be guaranteed, no matter where you go. There are four levels of safety classification on most travel advisory sites – even the lowest concern for safety still requires travellers to be diligent in exercising normal safety precautions.
The security in the country remains tight. This is common for any country that has had an attack on its safety and again, much like other countries that have gone through such an attack, it is likely that Sri Lanka will maintain this level of security for a long time to come.
Update: As the security situation in the island nation continues to improve, some countries are beginning to relax their travel advisory status. On 28th May the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) updated its travel advisory to Sri Lanka from ‘Do not travel’ to ‘be very vigilant about your personal safety’. Similarly China, Austria, Sweden, Germany, India, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, the UK and Australia have all followed suit and also relaxed the tourism travel advisory they had imposed on Sri Lanka.
Is it better to stay in a large hotel or a villa?
The answer to this does not depend on the situation in the country, but rather your own personal taste and expected holiday vibe. If you are someone who prefers the style, scale and offering of a large hotel chain, then you can be sure that following the attacks the security in and around those hotels has been significantly heightened.
A Villa- style holiday is perfect for those people who are looking for the kind of luxury that comes with the privacy and intimacy of having accommodation to yourself or shared with only a small number of others. Obviously Taru Villas – with a collection made up of Small Boutique Hotels and Villas, better suits this group of people and we would be delighted to discuss any impending travel plans you have to Sri Lanka.