Operators move to highlight Sri Lanka

by Steve Hartridge

Tour operators have introduced a raft of special offers and new tours to speed bookings to Sri Lanka back to their pre-Easter levels.

The Indian Ocean’s tourism prospects looked bleak after more than 250 people were killed on Easter Sunday in April in terrorist attacks that targeted hotels and churches.

But after the Foreign Office relaxed its travel advice on June 6 – it no longer advises against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka but still warns tourists to ‘remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions to stay safe’ – operators have moved fast to put the destination back on track.

Thomas Cook’s programme resumes on July 1, while Gold Medal and Travel 2 have also put Sri Lanka back into its itineraries.

Premier Holidays is promoting its eight-night £999pp Luxury Sri Lanka deal, on a B&B basis. Bookings must be made by June 30 for an October 1 departure.

Tailor-made specialist Pettitts Travel is offering £150pp off all Sri Lanka bookings made before July 31.

Exceptional Travel has a range of discounts on various island properties. These include a 30% discount off contracted rates, which are inclusive of all government taxes and service charges, at the Teardrop Hotels (The Wallawwa, Fort Bazaar, Kumu Beach, Goatfell, Nine Skies and Camellia Hills) for new reservations confirmed until July 31 2019 for stays up to and including December 13 2019, and 25% off contracted rates on all bookings made for stays at Water Garden between now and August 31 2019.

Toby Warren, Exceptional Travel’s Managing Director, said: “We are delighted to see the FCO has lifted its restrictions on travel to Sri Lanka, a destination which has been very popular with our clients in recent years. As a destination it has so much to offer with beautiful beaches, religious temples, ancient capitals, hills and tea plantations, national parks abundant with wildlife, beautiful train journeys and warm and welcoming people.”

APT has increased the number of departures on its Spirit of Sri Lanka tour to 12 in 2020-21.

Paul Melinis, Managing Director APT UK & Europe, said: “This demonstrates our commitment to tourism for the country. Sri Lanka has been on many people’s bucket list for 2019 and we anticipate this trend is set to continue, despite recent events. With the recent change in the FCO’s advice, a commitment from suppliers in the region and with the safety and security that comes with an escorted tour, we are confident that many will continue to book holidays to this incredible country.”

Turquoise Holidays' James Bell said: “Sri Lanka holds a special place in our hearts at Turquoise. It is an island nation bursting with warmth, diversity and colour. Travellers can return once again to this beautiful island and we look forward to supporting its people on the road to a bright and peaceful future.”

Turquoise Holidays has a seven-night stay at Anantara Tangalle, on the southern tip of the island, priced from £1,389pp, on a half-board basis, with flights.

Andrew Turner, Head of Industry Sales EMEA at Intrepid Travel said: “We’re so pleased to see the FCO change its advice on travel to Sri Lanka. We operate trips regularly across the country and know that the people are heavily reliant on the tourism industry.

“Sri Lanka remains a popular destination amongst our travellers and we hope this change in advice will give agents the confidence to sell, and clients to return to this beautiful country.”

Intrepid’s 15-day Circle Sri Lanka tour, from Negombo to Colombo, takes in the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, tea plantations in Haputale and Mirissa Beach. It is priced from £1,570pp.

Travelsphere’s 13-day Highlights of Sri Lanka tour starts from £1,924 for departures between January and November next year. Highlights include Minneriya National Park (with its herds of elephants), the Dambulla Cave Temples, Sigriya Rock Fortress, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Galles and Yyala National Park.

Over 250,000 Brits visited Sri Lanka last year, making the UK the third-highest source of tourism after India and China.

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