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    Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019

    Sri Lanka Blasts Will Have Certain Impact on Tourism in Short Term - Businessmen

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    Eight explosions hit several locations in Sri Lanka, including hotels and churches where Catholic Christians were taking part in Easter Sunday services. Speaking to Sputnik, businessmen shared their views on how the attacks may affect the travel industry – one of the major sources of the island's wealth.

    A series of coordinated bombings across Sri Lanka rocked the island on 21 April resulting in 290 dead and 500 injured.

    The bombing spree threatens to deal a heavy blow to the island's tourism industry, which has become "the third largest foreign exchange earner" in the country since the end of the 26-year civil war in 2009, according to the US Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration's (ITA) export.gov website.

    "We anticipate that people planning on a leisure trip may choose to defer travel or pick an alternative location in the near term", Rajesh Magow, the MakeMyTrip CEO, told Sputnik.

    He explained that Sri Lanka "has emerged as one of the most preferred destination for Indians over the last few years and while it is early to quantify the impact of deadly attacks on Easter Sunday, it is likely to have a bearing on tourism footfalls in the short term".

    "India is the largest source market for Sri Lankan tourism and at MakeMyTrip, we have seen over 28 percent year-on-year growth in travel to the country", the businessman stressed.

    For his part, Siprang Srinarintranon, group director of marketing at the Diethelm Travel Group, asserted that "immediate steps have been taken to move our guests to safe zones and we are in close contact with all Diethelm Travel guests, agents, suppliers and staff".

    "Everyone has been safely accounted for and [is] safe", she said. "We have given them the assurance that they can continue their journey with certain precautions. There are no official restrictions for travellers to Sri Lanka apart from a curfew which will again be imposed at 8 pm today until 6 am tomorrow morning (GMT+5:30)".

    Srinarintranon elaborated that the travel company recommends that all arriving guests are advised of the current situation and informed that their itineraries maybe altered to ensure their safety.

    "We strongly advise travellers not to visit areas with crowds and avoid city tours within Colombo, Kandy and Sigiriya for the next 48 hours. It is also not advisable to take trains, boats or other forms of public transport at this time", she highlighted.

    Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, the east coast city of Batticaloa, and the west coast city of Negombo, were chosen by bombers as primary targets. Additionally, the nation's authorities found 87 detonators at a private terminal of the capital's Central Bus Stand on 22 April.

    "We have made alternative private arrangements for guests originally booked for public journeys today and tomorrow", Srinarintranon continued. "Guests who have booked stays in Colombo will be advised to stay in hotels in the city's outskirts. Our teams are closely monitoring the situation and are in constant contact with all our guests".

    According to the businessman "it is too early to make a statement".

    He opined that "for the short term impact, it will have a certain influence on their holiday decision making", expressing hope that "in a long run, the beauty of Sri Lanka will convince back traveller's minds".

    "Our clients' safety is our number one priority. From our side, the company has strongly established a health and safety policy as well as a crisis management policy which we strictly comply with in order to ensure there is minimal risk in our ground operations", he said.

    However, the US State Department's Travel Advisory stated Monday that "terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka", urging American travellers to exercise "increased caution".

    While 24 people have been arrested following the attacks, no terrorist organisation has taken responsibility for the deadly blasts yet. It is believed that a local, little-known Islamist group, National Thowheed Jamath, could be behind the attack.

    Sri Lankan Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne presumed that the attacks had been carried out with the help of a vast international network.

    "We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country. There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded", Senaratne stated.

    The government imposed and then lifted a nationwide curfew following the Sunday attacks. However, new restrictions came just a few hours later. According to the Sri Lankan authorities, the new curfew will take effect in Colombo starting at 8 pm (GMT+5:30) on Monday.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    blasts, terror attack, church, hotel, explosion, tourism, Colombo, India, Asia, Sri Lanka
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