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Sri Lanka opens doors for international tourists with Covid-19 protocols

A bio-bubble has been created for international visitors to explore multiple sites and attractions in Sri Lanka

Tourists have started arriving in Sri Lanka after the country opened its borders for international travel after 10 months, last week. Amongst the first to arrive at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) for 'a Ayurvedic holiday' was a tourism trade delegation from Germany. As Sri Lanka opens its doors to the world once again, Sri Lanka Tourism has pulled out all the stops, ensuring that every Covid-19 precautionary measure has been set in place to make the island getaway as safe, secure and serene as possible for the visitors.

Passenger flights and ship arrivals for international guests in Sri Lanka were stopped from March 2020 which dealt a major blow to the industry which had seen 507,311 tourist arrivals in the first three months (Jan-March 2020) despite the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019.

Faced with a lot of challenges, the tourism body adopted all 'safety protocols' issued by the Ministry of Health – which have to be followed by the industry stakeholders and visitors – before flying in the first set of visitors.

As per the new set of protocols, Sri Lanka does not require a minimum number of days to stay. However, the travellers will have to stay at a 'safe and secure' certified, Level-1 hotel or hotels in the initial 14 days of their stay. This ensures the creation of a bio-bubble for the international visitors assuring the safety of the local communities, employees of the industry and the visitors to the industry. The respective hotels and accommodation providers along with the travel agents and tour operators will be entrusted to ensure that visitors don’t break the bubble of safety.

These hotels cannot accept bookings from locals and also are not allowed to hold any events or banquet functions for locals. International travellers are allowed to stay in any number of certified hotels during the initial 14 days of their stay.

Visitors planning to visit Sri Lanka are required to have a confirmed hotel booking, pre-purchased PCR tests and a mandatory Covid-19 insurance cover before applying for the visa.

The cost per PCR test is $ 40 and the mandatory Covid-19 insurance cover from People's Insurance PLC will cost $ 12 for a policy of $ 50,000 for a period of one month. Upon the payment of the PCR tests and insurance premium, the hotel will issue a reference number which the visitors need to include in their visa form.

Sri Lanka Tourism has made it mandatory for the hotels to provide confirmed booking number only after collecting funds for necessary PCR tests and insurance premium.

All visitors, prior to boarding, will have to carry a negative PCR test result from an accredited laboratory 96 hours before their departure. The first of the prepaid PCR tests would be carried out on-arrival at the guest's hotel prior to check-in. The second PCR test would be conducted 5-7 days after, or if any symptoms should develop before.  

If a tourist tests positive, initial isolation would be accommodated at the hotel and if necessary, transfers to a private hospital or a designated hotel to be quarantined would be arranged.

Sri Lanka Tourism has also created a bio-bubble for international visitors to explore multiple sites and attractions in Sri Lanka: This include places such as, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Yala, Udawalawe, Kaudulla and Wilpaththu National Parks, Mirissa Whale Watching, Sigiriya Fortress, Anuradhapura (excluding 'Sri Maha Bodhiya') and Polonnaruwa to name a few.