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DFAT warning and cancellations follow Sri Lanka attacks

April 23, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) yesterday upgraded its level of advice on Sri Lanka to ‘Reconsider your need to travel’, following the horrific Easter bombing carnage that threatens to derail Sri Lanka’s promising tourism recovery.

‘Reconsider your need to travel’ is the highest level of DFAT travel advisory, short of ‘Do not travel’. Before the latest attacks, DFAT classified Sri Lanka as ‘Exercise normal safety precautions’, the lowest level possible.

The Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka targeted worshippers in Christian churches and foreign tourists in three upmarket hotels.

DFAT stated on Tuesday 23 April: “On 21 April 2019, a number of bombings targeted prominent hotels and churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. These attacks have resulted in more than 300 deaths and 500 injured. Local authorities have stepped up security at locations, declared a state of emergency and may impose curfews at short notice.

“If you’re travelling during curfew hours, prearrange transport with the necessary curfew permits, through your hotel or local host well in advance. Carry relevant travel and identification documents for any checkpoints. If you’re departing from Bandaranaike International Airport arrive four hours ahead of your scheduled flight due to heightened security measures at the airport. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for updates. We have raised our level of advice to ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ to Sri Lanka.”

The US State Department went further, warning that the terrorists might strike again.https://join.travelmanagers.com.au/benefits/earn-more/

“Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations,” the US State Department said.

The death toll is about 300, with over 500 people injured. Those killed included two Australians (a mother and her 10-year-old daughter, who were living in Sri Lanka) and about 35 foreign tourists, including American, British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese citizens.

The perpetrators, who included suicide bombers, attacked three upmarket tourist hotels in Colombo: the flash new Shangri-La Colombo; the Kingsbury Hotel; and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo (formerly the Hotel Lanka Oberoi). They also bombed several churches and left a bomb near the airport, which was defused safely.

Reports of mass cancellations by tourists after the blasts added another sad note to the story, as tourism in the country was starting to take off. Peace seemed finally to have arrived after a brutal civil war that lasted over 25 years and ended a decade ago. Sri Lanka topped the 2019 list of travel destinations in Lonely Planet’s annual rankings, the destination drawing praise for everything from religious diversity and wildlife to great surf.

A report from Bloomberg last night spoke of holidaymakers in Sri Lanka “flocking to the main airport, cutting short their vacations”. The report added, however, that Sri Lanka’s tourism industry was already working to minimise damage to the industry.

Australia is the fifth-largest source of tourism to Sri Lanka, according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. The four main sources are, in order: India, China, Britain and Germany.

G Adventures quickly put out a statement of reassurance, as follows:

Following the attacks in Colombo and Negombo, Sri Lanka on 21 April, 2019, G Adventures can confirm all our travellers and staff in the country are safe and accounted for. Currently we have eight groups carrying 116 travellers on the ground and all trips have been rerouted to avoid Colombo.

 All travellers have been advised to contact their family and friends to assure them of their safety, however the government has temporarily blocked social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, so communications may be delayed. Colombo International Airport has also been closed.

 G Adventures’ local team is monitoring this ongoing situation and will determine if any itinerary changes or cancellations are necessary.

 If any travellers with future bookings wish to postpone their tour to a later date, they can do so with no change fees. Travellers with questions regarding upcoming travel arrangements can also contact their travel agent or our sales team by telephone or email, as below:

 Toll-free, North America only: 1 877 277 9854
 From the UK: 0344 272 0000
 From Australia: 1 300 796 618
 From Outside North America, Australia and the UK: +1 416 260 0999
 Email: experience@gadventures.com

G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip, stated that any attack on our religious institutions is an attack on all of us, regardless of faith. “We cannot allow this wave of division to further separate humanity. We must use this tragic loss to unite us. It’s my belief that compassion for all people, combined with an understanding of different backgrounds, religions and cultures, has the potential to be the fastest path to peace.”

Global travel company Abercrombie & Kent expressed deep shock at what it called “the senseless attacks in Sri Lanka over the weekend”, with hearts going out to the victims and families affected.

A&K has an office on the ground in Sri Lanka and confirms all its guests in the country are accounted for and safe. The company is closely monitoring the developing situation and will be reaching out to future travellers and their travel professionals as more information comes to light.

Gestures of solidarity and sympathy for Sri Lanka in its time of crisis are flowing from around the world, including from Australia, as below.

Written by Peter Needham

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