Dubai: Travel agents in Dubai have reported no cancellations to Sri Lanka in light of Sunday’s terrorist attacks, but they haven’t ruled out the possibility of tourists deciding against trips to the country.
At least 290 people were killed and 500 injured in eight explosions across Sri Lanka, which targeted hotels and churches on Easter Day.
Omar Shakir of Al Marjan Tourism said: “Nobody has initiated any cancellations as of now. We do have two or three groups going in the next few weeks, but there are no cancellations as yet.”
Asked if he expected cancellations from tourists because of the terrorist attacks, he replied: “Most probably in light of what has happened, yes.”
Other agents have reported a sudden rise in the number of Sri Lankans booking emergency trips back home.
“Most of our clients are Sri Lankan and people normally travel back during these instances,” said Udayanga Sampat of Happy Holiday Travel and Tourism.
“We are experiencing a sudden surge in emergency bookings not from tourists but from Sri Lankans in the UAE whose relatives have died or are injured.
“We don’t have any tourists, but on Sunday we had seven or eight bookings from Sri Lankans and we are expecting this number to only increase, I am sure.”
Denson Deniz of Skylink Travels agreed: “As of now we’ve had no cancellations, but relatives may be travelling back because of what has happened obviously to see loved ones.
“While tourism may be affected business may even increase because of there being a lot more Sri Lankan travellers suddenly going home, they are not travelling back with children, it is mainly just seniors (adults) going back.”
Approximately 250,000 Sri Lankans live in the UAE and given low cost airfares and the short three hour flight time it has risen to become a popular weekend destination among UAE residents. It is also a relatively new frontier for many given that the country opened up to tourism after its long running civil war came to a dramatic end in 2009.
Daniel Ponzo, of Zahid Travel, said that this newfound status as an appealing destination was now at threat.
“There’s a big question mark about the future,” he said. “Unfortunately I don’t know how long it’s going to take for tourists to regain confidence again. It had been regained after so many problems that had been practically fixed over the last few years but now I don’t know when the confidence will come back again for this marvellous destination,” he added.