This year has been one that will be etched in our memory for a very long time. We’ve experienced a pandemic which has constricted us to our own home, been in fear about contracting this deadly virus and have had to adjust to a ‘new normal’, even though we didn’t quite understand what that meant. Well if you are surfing the web looking for ways things can get better, we have some great news for you! The island of Sri Lanka is opening its borders in January 2021!
The question on everyone’s mind is going to be ‘but is it really safe?’ The reason that Sri Lanka hasn’t opened borders for so long is that it was necessary to ensure the safety of all people. But right now there have been many regulations that have been enforced and health certificates that have been administered indicating that it is safe to travel to Sri Lanka. With the hope the invention of the vaccine brings, the government, with the constant guide of the health officials, have decided to open borders in 2021.
However as this virus is still very much a threat to humans, there have been many precautions and safety regulations that have been implemented that Sri Lanka requires all tourists to abide by. But we can assure you that the adventure of traveling after being deprived of it for so long and experiencing the beauty of this island, will definitely be worth it despite the ‘new normal’.
Firstly it is important to clarify that Sri Lanka has received the Safe Travel Stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council. This is a recognized certification given if a sound protocol and strict safety measures have been implemented in the country. Conducted by KPMG, these audits and certification are stringent as they must ensure high health and safety standards that are in line with other countries in the regions. Considering the nature of this deadly virus, it is quite important that this certification is received so that no compromises are made. Therefore it is quite clear from this certification that Sri Lanka Tourism has taken the necessary measures in order to open the country for tourism.
Sri Lanka Tourism was one of the first in the Asian region to prepare and issue a comprehensive Covid-19 health protocol. This was developed and finalized with the support of the Ministry of Health, the UN World Health Organization and the input of the Tourism industry in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has decided to open out two airports. The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) will be reopened, limiting the arrivals per day to a total of 300 in the first phase. This will be reviewed further before moving into the next phase which would depend based on the situation. The second airport, which is the Mattala International Airport (MRIA) will be exclusively used for repatriation flights.
There are also many requirements that need to be taken by tourists when entering the country. Firstly and most importantly before entering the country all passengers are required to take a PCR Covid-19 test 72 hours before arrival. Evidence of a negative report must be presented to the officials upon landing. Although previously visa on arrival was an option, this has been revised and all travelers must now apply for an online visa. Upon arrival, each passenger will be tested for COVID once again. And 7 days later there will be a follow-up test conducted on each passenger to ensure once again that no one has contracted the virus, minimizing the chances of a community spread. All travelers are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine in one of the many government-sanctioned quarantine centers which means that all travelers must commit to a minimum of 14 days in the island.
According to the current regulations, there will be at least one hotel that will be turned into a quarantine center in each city that is open for tourists. KPMG has also awarded ‘Safe & Secure’ certificates for various tourist establishments and service providers if they meet the requirements of the COVID-19 protocol. Maintenance of the highest operational standards at all times and responsibility when conducting tourism activities can be guaranteed from these establishments as any complaint or unsatisfactory operational practices will result in cancellation of the certification status. The list of places that have been awarded this certificate in the accommodation sector can be found here. Even though as of the 17th of December these are the regulations in place, due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, the regulations are inevitably going to change. Therefore ensure to stay updated regularly.
Having said all of this, as a nation we are beyond thrilled to be able to welcome visitors once again. Sri Lanka is not Sri Lanka without its thriving tourism industry. So as we metaphorically open our arms to tourists we shall literally keep them close as we welcome you with our traditional greeting, ‘Ayubowan’.