Nov 26, 2018

Allow visa-free travel for top five countries: THASL Featured

The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) renewed their request for export status and requested for visa-free travel for selected high-yielding tourist markets, the organisation said in a statement yesterday.

At a recent meeting, called for by MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, THASL President Sanath Ukwatte stressed on an early settlement of the current political crisis as further delay would lead to adverse effects for the forthcoming winter season. This year, the industry was on course to achieve the highest arrivals of 2.25 million with a targeted $ 3.5 billion in earnings, but the industry is now facing uncertainty due to the recent political developments, the statement said.

THASL has also recommended improving Sri Lanka’s attractiveness by allowing visa-free travel for Indian, Chinese, Middle East, EU, and UK travellers. Leading hoteliers, together with SLAITO President Harith Perera and their members, also participated at this meeting.

Tourist industry boards have an equal number of members representing the industry and act as catalysts in tourism promotions, training of staff and regulatory functions. The industry contributes 1% of its turnover for the functioning of these boards, the statement pointed out.

“Having launched its newest brand tagline ‘So Sri Lanka’ in London, and the endorsement by highly influential ‘Lonely Planet’ naming Sri Lanka as the top travel destination in 2019, the industry was optimistic of achieving approximately $ 4 billion next year. We request all parties concerned to work together with the industry in launching its global media campaign in March next year, keeping to our original plans,” the statement said.

THASL renewed their call for the tourism industry to be granted export status and to lower the excessive taxes that make Sri Lankan hotels uncompetitive compared to regional competitors.

Ukawatte also called for necessary legislation to abolish the proposed municipality tax of 1% on the total turnover, where the hotel sector has been singled out.

“Hoteliers are struggling to stay viable because of these high taxes and stiff competition from the informal sector, which operates without paying any form of tax. Taxing the informal sector and creating a level playing field is another major concern of the industry,” the statement said.