Special Supplement

Tourism in times of pandemic

Published : 18 Mar 2021 08:01 PM | Updated : 09 Apr 2021 01:18 AM

Sri Lanka has always delighted visitors to its shores as per legend as well as history records.

For centuries its fragrant spices, priceless gems and pearls, legendary beauty, sublime culture and friendly people captivated princess, poets, traders, empire-builders and admirers.

In Sir Arthur C Clarke’s words “the Island of Sri Lanka is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery, and climate as some countries a dozen times its size . . . I find it hard to believe that there is any country which scores so highly in all departments - which has so many advantages and so few disadvantages."  Lovely beaches, beautiful landscapes, impressive ruins, a vibrant culture and charming people. – no wonder Sri Lanka is a small miracle.

Sri Lanka is an island with smiling people who are well known for their hospitality.  It has something to offer everyone.  The highly developed tourism sector presents a wide variety of attractions/choices to the discerning visitor to the country.

Among them Seductive beaches and tempting water sports, magnificent landscapes featuring lazy lagoons, fertile wetlands, ecologically-wondrous types of forest, imposing mountains, bounteous rivers and waterfalls, an abundance of wildlife - much of it endemic - unique ecosystems, inspiring heritage sites from ancient cities to colonial forts, a vibrant culture including fine arts and crafts and grand festivals are outstanding.

Contemporary tourist attractions such as luxurious Ayurveda spas and broad-based shopping opportunities have evolved, and Sri Lanka has become one of the world’s most popular destinations to get married and enjoy a honeymoon.

Pandemic preparedness

Sri Lanka enforced a strict health protocol to ensure the safety of not only its citizens but also international travellers.

For this purpose, Sri Lanka Tourism published the Health Protocol for the tourism sector in June 2020 based on global best practices, giving ample time for the industry to be familiar with the guidelines.

Several training sessions were conducted on Pandemic Preparedness for SMEs, designed and rolled out together with S4IG Australia and Asian Development Bank. COVID-19 guideline training was conducted partnering with Market Development Facility (MDF) of Australia and the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL). 

To all the stakeholder associations, Sri Lanka Tourism kindly suggests you arrange similar training programmes for your members and we will support by providing trainers who are familiar with the guideline.

How to obtain the ‘Safe & Secure’ Certification?

This Guideline is available on the SLTDA official website and can be accessed through https://sltda.gov.lk/storage/documents/SLTourism-OperationalGuidelines.pdf.

The guideline provides direction to all tourism service providers on how to carry out their operations in a responsible manner adhering to the health protocols.

While every tourism service provider is expected to familiarize with the overall guideline contents, chapter 4 is specifically dedicated to the accommodation service sector and chapters 3 & 6 provide guidance to travel agents, tour operators and tour crews.

Chapter 5 is for other tourist facilities and services including stand-alone restaurants, cafes, theatres, supermarkets, shopping malls etc., while chapter 7 is for attraction sites and activity places.

Any SLTDA registered tourism service provider from accommodations, travel agents, tour operators, tours crews (tour guides and chauffeurs) or other services can apply for ‘Safe & Secure’ certification, if they are ready to be audited by the KPMG.

The cost of the first audit as mentioned earlier will be borne by SLTDA and to apply for certification, SLTDA registration with license renewal is a mandatory requirement. 

The application is available online and can be accessed through https://sltda.gov.lk/safe-certification. Based on the applied date, the audit schedules will be prepared by SLTDA and forwarded to KPMG for implementation.

For the accommodation sector, travel agents/tour operators and stand-alone facilities, the assessments will include completing of KPMG’s initial checklist/questionnaire by the relevant service provider, which will be followed by the physical on-site audit at a pre-arranged date.

Assessment of the tour crews including tour guides and chauffeurs are based on an examination conducted by KPMG to check the level of overall knowledge and awareness on the guideline contents with special attention to details in chapters 3 & 6 of the guideline.

Culture and Heritage

The most important historical religious attractions with ruins which relates the stories of ancient civilization are Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Mihintale and Kandy. From Ancient Cities in Anuradhapura to Ayurvedic Spars at coasts, includes 07 World Heritage Sites like Sigiriya.

Nature and Environment

Nature lovers can enjoy from misty mountains and hill areas such as Pidurutalagala and N’Eliya to tropical rainforests such as Sinharaja to wildlife sanctuaries such as Yala, Wilpattu, Wasgamuwa, Udawalawa and Kumana to lush waterfalls such as Diyaluma, Bambarakanda, Ramboda, Aberdeen, Devon, St. Clair, Dunhinda and Rawana Ella, to the Aquatic Life in Passikudah.  Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is also one of the tourist attractions in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is an island which surrounded by unspoilt beaches on the southern, western, eastern and northern tropical shores stretched within 1600 km.

Horton Place, Knuckles forest reservation, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Hakgala Gardens, Tangamalai, Udawaththekelle, Kelaniweli forest reserve are rich bio diversity sites with picturesque landscapes.

Adventure Tourism

White Water Rafting in Kithulgala, Whale Watching at Mirrissa & Wind Surfing at Arugam Bay to Wild Safaris at Yala.

Sri Lanka being an adventure lover’s dream, she offers a wide choice of outdoor activities such as mountain climbing, biking, trekking/camping, hiking, cycling, cave trek, white water rafting, sailing, skiing, deep sea fishing, canoeing/kayaking, diving, bird watching, wild life viewing (bird, wildflower & botanical treks, butterfly watching)

Sports Tourism

Sri Lanka has made its mark in the international arena for cricket. In addition to cricket; facilities are available for Tennis, Golf: Water Sports, Motor Racing and many other sports.

Health Tourism

Sri Lanka Ayurveda comes from a 3000-year old tradition of health and healing.  Meditation, medicated massage, herbal saunas, lotus spa, steam baths, herbal therapy & diet, are available at Tourist Hotels. 


Being a multi-religious country, the festivals of the four main religions are celebrated in Sri Lanka. The Sri Pada pilgrimage, Thai Pongol, Duruthu Perahera (Kelani Raja Maha Vihara perahera), Navam perahera (Gangaramaya temple) Sinhala Tamil New year, Wesak, Poson, Kandy Esala perahera (Asia's grandest traditional pageant parade for 10 nights to honour the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha), Bellanwila (Bellanwila Rajamaha Vihara), Kataragama Festival, Vel, Munneswaram Udappuwa and Nallur Festival, Devinuwara (Dondra) Festival, Deepavali, Ramazan, Christmas, Madhu and Thalawila Festivals.

Shopping, fun & entertainment

Sri Lanka is attracted as a shopping destination. Designer clothes manufactured in Sri Lanka are available at reasonable prices in and around Colombo. Plenty of souvenir shops selling wood carvings, ceramic, handlooms, colourful batiks, gem stones - blue sapphires, rubies, alexandrite, amethyst, garnets are also available island wide.  With the rapid westernization of the city many kind of entertainments, can be seen.

“Nagenahira Navodaya” and “Uthuru Wasanthaya”

With the defeat of the LTTE, the Government has launched “Nagenahira Navodaya” (Eastern Revival) and “Uthuru Wasanthaya” (Flourishing North) paving the way for tourists to experience visiting cites of tourist attractions without any restrictions.

Source: Websites of different Sri Lankan government agencies