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Sri Lanka resort town hit hard by tourism slowdown following attacks

Her hotel had previously been fully booked for the day when Reuters visited on Thursday (May 2), but when news of the bombings on Easter Sunday emerged, all of her guests canceled.

“Our hotel sector has been badly affected after the incidents,” the 54-year-old told Reuters in her deserted beachside restaurant, adding that the current situation is even worst than during civil war as bookings from now until October were cancelled.

In the empty restaurant attached to her hotel, waiters polished glasses and re-arranged tables, without any sign of any guests arriving.

Sri Lanka’s $4.4 billion tourism industry is reeling from cancellations as travellers shun the Indian Ocean island, popular for its pristine beaches, after multiple suicide bombings that killed over 250 two weeks ago.

From luxury hotels to beach shacks, cancellations are affecting the entire tourism industry. But it is family-run businesses and sole traders like Collone’s that are the hardest hit. Her family built the hotel with the aid of a bank loan, and she worries they won’t be able to repay.

If the situation doesn’t improve, some of the sixteen staff working for her will have to be let go, she added.

Collone is not the only person affected by the slowdown tourism in Sri Lanka.

Man Chaminda, who waits at a nearby hotel to ferry passengers around the area with his motorbike rickhaw ‘tuk-tuk’, said his business has fallen dramatically following the attacks.

“We don’t have any hire,” Chaminda said shortly before yet another failed attempt to attract customers.

Tourism Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes has said the country faces lost tourism revenues of $750 million this year.

Cancellation rates at hotels across the country averaged 70 percent as of Saturday (May 4), with capital Colombo taking a bigger hit, Gomes told Reuters. Net hotel bookings dropped a staggering 186 percent a week on average over the week following the attack compared to same period last year, data from travel consultancy ForwardKeys showed. A decline of more than hundred percent indicates more cancellations than bookings.

Tourism was Sri Lanka’s third largest and fastest growing source of foreign currency last year, after private remittances and textile and garment exports. A sustained collapse in tourism following the attacks on churches and hotels would deal a severe blow to the island’s economy.

(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Angie Teo)

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