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Sri Lanka still safe for tourists? Heartfelt plea by Jetwing Hotels Chairman Shiromal Cooray

Sri Lanka still safe for tourists? Heartfelt plea by Jetwing Hotels Chairman Shiromal Cooray

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Sri Lanka Tourism is actually open for business: There is no threat to the overall safety of visitors. This is the latest message released by Sri Lanka Tourism officials and echoed by Dr. Peter Tarlow, a U.S. travel security expert for safertourism.com 

Of course, everyone in Sri Lanka is still in a state of shock. The heartfelt post on the homepage of Jetwing Hotels.  by their Chairman, Shiromal Cooray reads:  “It is with profound sadness and a very heavy heart that I write this message to you. I did not in my wildest dreams imagine that terror will strike my beautiful and peaceful island home just a decade after we ended a senseless war,”

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Will holidaymakers, meeting planners and FIT tourists still choose Sri Lanka is a big question many in the industry are worried about.

As an indication that travels to Sri Lanka will not turn into a security adventure for brave visitors, the United States State Department only increased the Level of Caution for U.S. citizens visiting Sri Lanka to level 2. This is the same level currently used for Bahamas, India, Israel or Germany, and not even close to level 3, in place for Turkey.

“Sri Lanka Tourism looks forward to warmly welcome all those who have planned trips to our country in the days, weeks and months ahead,” says Mr. Johanne Jayaratne, FRAeS, managing director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau.

U.S. travel and tourism expert Dr. Peter Tarlow ( www.safertourism.com ) added: “The tragic bombings that recently occurred in Sri Lanka should not be seen as indicative of overall safety in Sri Lanka. Very much to the contrary, Sri Lanka has been known in the last decades as a safe and secure destination.”

Tarlow continued to say: “Unfortunately, there are bad people in every part of the world and travel implies risk.  However, Sri Lanka cannot afford to rely on its recent past but must show the world what it is doing in the future.

“Despite the fact that the situation is very fluid and many of the facts are still unclear, there are a number of things that Sri Lanka can do immediately and in the short and long-term to mitigate the damage to its reputation and begin to rebuild its tourism industry. ”

Dr. Peter Tarlow in his latest book: Tourism Policing and Protection Service, published by IGIt, included a chapter about Sri Lanka tourism policy, giving some insight relevant to the current situation. Dr. Peter Tarlow is head of eTN affiliate  safertourism.com

In yesterdays statement the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) assured visitors that the country was open for business. The message said that all necessary steps have been taken to ensure that assistance is provided to tourists in need of help, following the acts of terror that took place on Easter Sunday.

Sri Lanka Tourism is deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless violence and unreservedly condemns these dastardly acts. “We offer our deepest sympathies and condolences to all the victims and their families while wishing a speedy recovery to all those injured and currently receiving treatment.”

In the immediate aftermath of the explosions Sri Lanka Tourism deployed trained emergency response teams and its representatives at hospitals, affected hotels and the airport, to assist tourists in any way possible, including hotel transfers, airline bookings, airport transfers, itinerary changes, hospital treatment, contacting their loved ones and reuniting missing family members through diplomatic channels.

In addition, a 24-hour emergency support desk has been established and can be accessed as follows;

Emergency local hotline number to assist tourists currently in Sri Lanka – 1912
Emergency hotline to assist families of affected foreign nationals +94 11 2322485

Sri Lanka Tourism wishes to assure tourists who are already in the country and unaffected by the terror attacks that the police, tourism police and security forces are jointly implementing a comprehensive security plan to ensure their safety across the island including all important tourism sites. Meanwhile, a security briefing was held on April 22 for hotel owners and operators on the new safety measures that are being rolled out, and to seek their cooperation in strengthening security at hotels and resorts.

Sri Lanka Tourism would like to reassure the world that the country is open for business and all possible measures have been taken to ensure the safety and security of tourists. Our world famous tourist sites, hotels, resorts, and other tourist attractions will remain open as usual. There are no road closures or restrictions on movement anywhere in the island.

Sri Lanka is a proudly diverse nation which celebrates its multicultural nature. Since the end of the war a decade ago, Sri Lanka has enjoyed absolute peace and it will do everything within its power to maintain the peace that every Sri Lankan cherishes and rebuild what has been destroyed with renewed vigor. There is no place for terrorism of any kind in Sri Lanka and whoever that is responsible for the Easter Sunday violence will be hunted down and punished in the strongest possible manner.

Overall Sri Lanka is the home of some of the most dedicated people and leaders in the global travel and tourism industry.

Read the rest of the message posted on Jetwing Hotels by their Chairman Shiromal Cooray. It shows the character of the people of Sri Lanka.

“Dear Partners and Friends,

It is with profound sadness and a very heavy heart that I write this message to you. I did not in my wildest dreams imagine that terror will strike my beautiful and peaceful island home just a decade after we ended a senseless war. It appears that sinister forces were at play and we are confident that our intelligence and defense personnel will do what needs to be done, to continue that peace and tranquility that attracted and continue to attract many visitors to Sri Lanka.

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, it appears that the risen Lord is urging us to move on and to bring in love and compassion amongst so much anger and hatred. What else can prompt someone to kill innocent worshippers on Easter Sunday, or those tourists who are enjoying a well-earned break from their hectic lives back home? But, as we know, the human spirit is strong, and we will get through this and of course, we count on your support as we have always done in the past to help us through this tragedy.

This, unfortunately, is very personal to all of us at Jetwing too. We lost a young couple, a telephone operator and her fiancé, a steward from our team at Jetwing Blue in Negombo. They were planning to get married this year and were at prayer at the Katuwapitiya church when the coward carried out the deadly act. At Jetwing Travels, we lost one of our guests at the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo. He and his wife were married just a week before and were on their honeymoon. They finished the first leg of their tour and was all packed and ready to fly to Male and were breakfasting when this happened. Yes, we are very sad and ask God to grant them eternal rest and strength to their loved ones to bear the loss. Please pray for them.

Of course, security has been increased around the country and all Hotels and public places are being guarded. We will share with you as and when more information surfaces about the incidents. At present, we are rising above the carnage and grouping together to provide security and comfort to all Sri Lankans and visitors from overseas who are continuing their visits to Sri Lanka and all others who are coming to our shores in the days ahead. We will do our utmost to be extra vigilant to ensure the safety of our guests. The police curfew has been lifted now and life is getting back on track.

You have been with us at our worst and seen us through very difficult situations, I ask you again on behalf of all Sri Lankans and especially, our team at Jetwing, please continue in the same spirit, we cannot and must not let these incidents rule our lives. Thank you again for your concern and kind words. We assure you our best as always and will send you information as and when we receive the same.”

Chairman, Jetwing Hotels

…he wanted me to become a doctor, but I was not cut out for the medical profession and chose to become an accountant instead. However, he always encouraged us to do our best at whatever path we decided to take – and he continued to be my inspiration and my guiding light when I eventually returned to the fold, to become a part of Jetwing…”

Charmingly unpretentious and refreshingly down to earth, Shiromal is every inch her father’s daughter – as those who knew Herbert Cooray, the founder of Jetwing will warmly reiterate. The essence of humility and simplicity he exuded has manifested itself in the offspring he groomed to eventually take his dream to fruition and carry it forward.

Defying expectations, and ever independent of spirit, Shiromal desired to stay away from the then established family business in the leisure industry and joined the fast paced arena of advertising – as an accountant at JWT, one of the leading ad agencies in Sri Lanka. It was a vibrant and exciting world and she thrived in it handling both accounts and media, rising quickly to become the Finance Director. Although her father did not quite wish her to be caught up in the world of business – as he felt it was not a suitable environment for a female to engage in, he was willing to rethink his somewhat conventional and protective stance and give her all the support she needed to spread her wings. And, when Hong Kong beckoned with broader career prospects, Shiromal took up the opportunity to do so.

Always her quiet source of strength “…my father never insisted or pushed us to do anything we did not want to do, but he was naturally happy when I returned to help the travel arm of the Jetwing business, we reinvented Jetwing Travels as a separate business entity…” Having full faith in her abilities, he gave Shiromal complete autonomy to steer and grow the business and explore its potential. “He gave his opinion, but he gave us, his kids, the choice to make our own decisions. He allowed us to be who we were. He encouraged us to excel – but in an environment of freedom” She reminisces.

Every aspect of her life, Shiromal says, was inspired by her father. A simple person who never sought luxury, he was completely down to earth and influenced his children – and indeed all around him, by example. “…he taught us that all human beings are equal, to respect everyone, he also instilled in us the value of education, how important it was – that education, was for life…” Treasuring her times with him – as her Chairman, and her father she is grateful to him for inculcating an attitude of positivity in her outlook, the ability to be self-motivated, and be strong – the maxim ‘whatever happens, life goes on’ being words to live by.

Proud of the success the business has achieved today, Shiromal is highly conscientious of her role at the helm of Jetwing Travels, and is determined not to rest on her laurels. “My father was an incredible person, a true visionary and I consider it an honour to have the opportunity to take his dream forward, it is a responsibility I hold very dear. Jetwing Travels has come a long way, and we will indeed continue to grow from strength to strength , providing a legendary service– something I am totally committed to.”

In Sri Lanka you can meet dedicated people like the Chairman of Jetwings.

Here are more good reasons to visit Sri Lanka:

Rates should drop to the lowest ever, while the country will remain beautiful as ever, people will work twice as hard to make visitors feel welcome and safe, and no standing in line is expected.

Dive with blue whales in season or watch spinner dolphins leap about in Kalpitiya. Sri Lanka also has 5,800 wild elephants ambling about and the biggest concentration of leopards in the world. See them in Yala national park, along with sloth bears and buffalo.

Opened by two former national cricket players in an old Dutch hospital, Colombo’s Ministry of Crab serves knockout sweet, succulent and spicy Sri Lankan crab in what is one of the capital’s most beautiful buildings. The restaurant itself was also voted one of Asia’s 50 best restaurants in 2016.

The Dambulla Buddha caves are filled with Buddha statues, cave paintings and are amazingly atmospheric.

The kindest way to see elephants is by volunteering at an elephant sanctuary

A newly reopened train route from Colombo to Jaffna promises an eye-opening journey through Sri Lanka

The recent reopening of the Yal Devi (Queen of Jaffna) Express provides visitors to Sri Lanka with an opportunity they have not had since 1990: to travel by train from Colombo to Jaffna.

You can dine on hoppers for a song. The dish is composed of a thin, crepe-like batter that’s infused with coconut milk and spices and crisped into a bowl shape to hold fried eggs. It’s versatile enough to serve as a breakfast dish, quick snack or hangover cure dependent on your needs.

Plenty of new hotels have opened in recent years, including a handful of beach resorts.

In the southeast of the island, Arugam Bay is a crescent of golden sand that offers barrelling breaks for surfing during summer days and beach parties galore on balmy nights. In winter, drag your board to Weligama.

It’s just so much easier to travel here than in India. Transactions go more smoothly, things work and best of all, trains and planes leave near enough on time. And there’s a fantastic network of hotels, all of which you can book on the web.

Uppuveli and Nilaveli, both close to Trincomalee on the northeast, are secluded and stunning stretches of sand. The few accommodation options are spread out, making these beaches perfect for lonely wanderings.

Sri Lanka needs the support of the international travel and tourism community. The best help is to visit Sri Lanka. More on tourism to Sri Lanka: www.srilanka.travel 

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.

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